Barbershop groups deliver heartfelt harmonies

Courtesy photo - From left, Mike Reid, Harvey Davidson, Newman Hood and Bob Massey make up the Notable Gentlemen from Killeen. Barbershop quartets such as the Notable Gentlemen will deliver singing valentines Thursday and Friday.

By Iuliana Petre

Killeen Daily Herald

Several years ago, Jim Maxwell and members of his barbershop quartet, with the Centroplex Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, visited the home of an elderly couple to deliver a Valentune to the woman's terminally ill husband.

The quartet sang a love song to the couple, who sat together holding hands with tears streaming down their faces.

"You could see they'd probably been married for more than 60 years and they had a strong bond," Maxwell said, adding that "to be part of special moments in people's lives like that, that's pretty neat."

Valentunes, or singing valentines, have for many years been delivered on Valentine's Day, nationwide, by local area barbershop quartets to that special someone.

"It's not just a local thing. They're done all over the country," Maxwell said, adding that the Barbershop Harmony Society started in 1938 and has about 30,000 members nationwide.

Valentunes are a way for quartets to raise money to support a program called Youth in Harmony, an outreach arm that's devoted to assisting, promoting and encouraging music education in schools.

"Valentunes are a unique way to use the barbershop craft and are real unusual in what they provide," said Bob Massey, a member of the Centroplex Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

"If somebody wanted to send you a Valentune they would call a number, reserve a day and have (the quartet deliver songs) at any time of the day or between certain hours," Massey said, adding that what you basically get is four guys in black tuxedoes, red cummerbunds, red ties and red handkerchiefs tucked into their pockets. They sing two la cappella songs, present a rose to the person to whom they sing and take a photo with the individual.

Valentunes are deliverable to anyone, male, female, young or old. And recipients usually have one of several reactions: become emotional, go berserk, or sit quietly and listen, Massey said. Women are generally more reactive, while men tend to be more skeptical.

"It's more fun to deliver Valentunes to women," Massey said, recalling an intimidating instance in which his quartet delivered Valentunes to a heavily tattooed man at a tattoo parlor.

Barbershop quartets draw an array of singers and the quartets deliver Valentunes at many locations.

This year, Valentunes are available for delivery on Friday with a charge of $40 for an anytime delivery and $50 for a specific-time delivery, and on Saturday for $40 for an anytime delivery and $60 for a specific-time delivery.

"The only thing that I would recommend is for folks to order those Valentunes as quickly as they can because Valentine's Day is not that far away," Massey said. "I enjoy doing these more than anything else as a barbershop singer. You get to see people's reactions and people order Valentunes for all different reasons."

The Centroplex Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society meets weekly at the Cultural Activities Center in Temple at 7 p.m.

For more information, or to join, call Mike Reid, the chapter's president, at (254) 526-9403.

To order a Valentune, call the 24-hour hot line at (866) 770-4508.

Contact Iuliana Petre at ipetre@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7469.

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