Barbershop Quartet Recounts Surprises, Sweet Moments Serenading On Valentine’s

Published: Monday, February 13, 2017 - 4:35pm
Updated: Monday, February 13, 2017 - 4:43pm

(Photo courtesy of Phoenicians Chorus)
Every Valentine's Day, the Phoenicians Chorus members deliver "singing valentines" across the Valley.

If you somehow haven’t already gotten the big red and pink memo, Valentine’s Day is Tuesday. You can send your Valentine chocolates or roses or a card — or how about all of that plus live music?

Every Valentine’s Day, a local chorus group divides its members into sets of barbershop quartets and ships them out across the Valley, to the surprise and sometimes confusion of that special someone. They shared some of those stories.

If you hear a group of voices getting in tune, it might be a sign you’re about to be serenaded.

And for about $50, these dulcet tones are actually deliverable. It’s something the Phoenicians Chorus offers as a Valentine’s special. Send all your loving via four guys in red vests.

“Well it certainly is a surprise to most,” said Dan Ryan, the baritone of one of the quartets.

“One of the most interesting times was where we were invited to meet the couple at a Macaroni Grill,” Ryan said. “And the guy had set it up with the family of his girlfriend and his own parents, and he got down on one knee and proposed. You can imagine the whole restaurant stopped what it was doing, and, of course, they erupted into cheering. She starts bawling, and luckily she said yes.”

But, just like love, the gigs can sometimes get a little wild and reckless. Lead singer Curt Struyk remembered singing to one woman in her cubicle.

“‘Course, all the other people stopped what they were doing and gathered around. And there was this guy in the next cubicle who climbed up over the top of it to take a picture of everything,” Struyk recalled. “And what he didn’t realize was there was a ceiling fan going right above him. And this hit him in the head. Didn’t hurt him, but there was a lot of dust and debris on this fan that just went flying all over the place. And we couldn’t finish the song, we were laughing so hard.”

Then of course there was the time they sang to a very embarrassed desk sergeant at the Phoenix Police Department, right in front of his officers.

They never know what the next visit will be like. Jay Bartley, the tenor, said sometimes they get people who don’t want to face the music, like in this visit last year:

“A fellow had scrimped and saved and put his money together to get his girlfriend a rose and a couple songs. And he gave us the address and as we got closer, it says … it’s a laundromat. And she was dressed as you would in a laundromat. And normally you hear all the stories about, oh, she’d break down and cry. This particular young lady became very angry and started cussing at us and kicked us out of the laundromat. So we were the ones that got surprised!”

For more than a decade, they’ve set out to spread the love. They say it’s worth it for the really heartwarming moments, like when bass singer Don Koehnlein sang at a couple’s 50th anniversary.

“They’re just celebrating at Safeway in the cake department,” Koehnlein explained. “And they’re just having their cake and coffee, and we’re singing to them and just tears are coming out. It’s very emotional and very rewarding for us.”

So I had to ask, after a day of sending other people’s love, what do the guys do with their own Valentines?

“My wife is used to being by herself on Valentine’s Day,” Struyk said. “And usually I’m able to confiscate a few extra roses from the day, or if we have time to arrange for the quartet to sing for my wife.”

Which would not be a surprise to her … just a nice touch.

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