Nothing says love more than hiring a barbershop quartet to serenade—or embarrass —your significant other in the sanctity of their workplace on Valentine’s Day.
This Valentine’s Day the Sounds of Concord, one of New England’s top-ranked male ensembles, travelled miles across eastern Massachusetts to sing ballads of love and desire to unknowing recipients.
Vinnie Girardi, Nick Ruiz, Craig Pierce, Rodrigo Alvarez and their driver Jeffrey Forman formed one barbershop team this Valentine’s Day. They drove throughout downtown Boston, convincing security guards and front desks to allow them up to the top floors to sing to their unsuspecting clients.
“I love to see the reactions on the recipients’ faces: It’s so heartwarming,” Forman said. “At shows, we don’t get a chance to meet and greet, but this allows us a one-on-one [with our audience].”
Forman said that he has seen a range of reactions. Some recipients laugh, others cry, some shoo the quartet away and others try to run. In one case, Forman said the quartet had to chase a car serviceman around the dealership while singing “Heart of my Heart.” He said if the group has been contracted to sing, they will sing.
“[Barbershoppers] have this disease,” Pierce said. “The disease is: If there’re more than two of us, at the drop of a hat, we break into song. And we don’t care!”
However the actual recipient acts, co-workers tend to love the show. After one performance at a company on Federal Street, the workers applauded. As the quartet was leaving, a female worker yelled to the rest of the office, “Guys, you all better take note, every single one of you!”
Marina Giovanelli received a Singing Valentine from her husband at her workplace on Milk Street. The quartet presented her with a silk rose, chocolates and a card from her husband before singing two love songs in front of all of her co-workers.
“It made me cry. I loved it. That was the most thoughtful thing. My husband knows that I love music. I was so surprised!” Giovanelli said.
Kate Cooper Sawyer also received a surprise visit from the quartet at her workplace on Congress Street. After the performance, she was shaking because she was so surprised.
“I knew I was getting something [from my husband], but I thought it was flowers,” Sawyer said. “It was amazing.”
Girardi said that being part of people’s Valentine’s Day is a great experience. He said that you know you did your job as a performer if you make the recipient feel something.
“It’s really an emotional connection you make with people,” Girardi said. “You can feel the love in the room and it overwhelms you.”
Carl Mikkelson, the coordinator for this year’s Singing Valentines, said the Sounds of Concord has been singing Valentines almost since the group’s formation in the 1970s. He said the event is a great way to make people’s day and also to provide support for barbershop-style singing.
“It’s a great opportunity to get out and expose people to [this style of] music who may not have heard it before,” Mikkelson said. “It’s a very effective form of outreach and it lets people know that this tight, four-part harmony still exists and is still being practiced. The more people hear it the more they like it.”
Mikkelson said that barbershop-style music is once again on the rise. While the groups may have lost the straw hats and striped shirts for black suits and roses, their voices still bring to mind romance and fun. He said that this year, about five quartets sang their way through eastern Massachusetts to deliver Valentines. He said that the Sounds of Concord had its peak in the 70s, but that it looks like barbershop-style Valentines might peak again in the next few years.
“There’s been a resurgence of a cappella singing in general,” Mikkelson said. He added that everyone should hear it at least once. “If you haven’t heard it, and you haven’t heard it done well, then it’s really hard to describe.”
The Singing Valentine event serves as a fundraiser for the Sounds of Concord, who is the back-to-back Northeastern district champions in the Barbershop Harmony Society. They will be competing with 28 other world wide barbershop teams in Toronto this July.
For more information about the Sounds of Concord, visit their website.