by TRACEY BARNES PRIESTLEY
The unsuspecting young woman sat at her desk. Surrounded by paperwork and personal mementos -- among them a prominently displayed photograph of a handsome young man in uniform -- she concentrated on her work. Little did she know what was about to happen.
Gradually, she became aware of activity in her office. Finally looking up from her work to see what was happening, she was surprised to find four smiling women standing at her desk. Once her identify was confirmed, one of the women handed her a deep red carnation and simply stated, "Someone loves you." With that, the quartet began singing her a beautiful love song.
Her reaction to the moment was immediate and powerful. Though she instantly broke into a tremendous smile, tears streamed down her face. She kept stealing glances at the photograph on her desk, once even lightly touching the frame.
At the sound of the music, co-workers emerged from behind their partitions; many looked over the banister from the second floor. Supervisors stepped out from their offices. Some huddled together in small groups, others actually swayed back and forth to the music. A few looked downright shocked but also pleased at what was unfolding in front of them. And in that cavernous space, the only sound to be heard was three-part harmony.
When the song ended, the crowd burst into applause, nearly drowning out the final words from the quartet, "Happy Valentine's Day." The room felt very different than it had just a few minutes before. It was lighter, certainly more alive. Everyone was smiling. As the quartet made its way back to the elevator, people in the office thanked them. The gift of music had once again worked its magic. Another Humboldt Light Opera Company "Singing Valentine" had been delivered.
For nearly 30 years, they've been making music. From its annual summer show to the holiday production of The Messiah, this company entertains Humboldt County. Singing Valentines are one of the company's annual fund-raisers. In 2002, 120 valentines were delivered from Trinidad to Fortuna. Groups began as early as 8 a.m. (which requires a bit of warming up for the singers) and ended with a "delivery" at 9 p.m. at a local restaurant. The money earned from this project is always put to good use. One year it bought a copier, another year it helped underwrite KidCo, the company's performing arts program for children.
Since the beginning of time, humans have been inspired, soothed and driven by all forms of music. Historically, melodies have been used to bolster courage before battles, sing babies to sleep and accompany a rite of passage in life. (What's a wedding without a favorite, sentimental song or two?) Music is so powerful that some cultures have tried to control it, fearful of what may happen if people are allowed to listen to say...rock and roll.
So, it's no surprise that singing Valentines are popular. What's their particular impact? Ask a research scientist and they'll give you a long, complex explanation about physiology, biochemistry, memory and cognition. Ask someone who has received one and they'll give you a very simple explanation: singing valentines make people feel very good.
Now, don't for a minute think it's just the women wiping a tear and being grateful that someone remembered them on this day of love. No, singers report they are especially touched by some of the men they sing to. You know the type -- the big, beefy guy, with his heart right there on his sleeve. One group tracked down a worker in the outback of one of the mills. How surprised was he when four women piled out of their car and began singing to him? He didn't hush them up, avoid eye contact or turn beet red. Nope, this guy leaned back on his truck, wiped a tear from his eye, and just smiled. When the quartet was finished he thanked them and, with a real sense of pride and contentment offered, "My wife got me again!"
The element of surprise certainly is part of the fun. One minute a man is sitting around the dinner table with his wife and kids. The next, there are real live women standing in his living room, serenading his wife -- who is crying and hugging him like they day they got married. (Meanwhile, their two teenagers look like the just might die. All that mushy stuff between parents can be a bit much.)
A singing valentine moves people, not only because of the power of music, but because they realize that someone took the time and thought to remember them in such a special way.
Why pass up the opportunity to make your husband, wife, partner, mother, father, sister, daughter or friend feel good? Believe me, a "Singing Valentine" is a gift that will be long remembered.
For more information or to place an order, call 668-4299 or 442-8213 or log on to www.hloc.org.
OTHER SINGING VALENTINE OPTIONS:
The Arcata-McKinleyville High School Orchestra and Madrigal Choir offer "Valentunes" Feb. 12, 13 and 14 from Trinidad to Eureka. A small group of instrumentalists and singers will serenade your sweetheart, friend or grandmother at home at work or wherever. Choose from "Eight Days a Week," "The Way You Do the Thing You Do," "I Want to be Loved by You," "You've Got a Friend in Me" or "As Time Goes By." Valentunes include a handwritten card, and by request flowers and/or chocolate hearts. $10 to $15 donation. To order call 826-2417 or 839-0605.
Eureka High's Limited Edition singing Valentines available Feb. 13 and 14. Choose from 5 songs: "Stand By Me," "Unchained Melody," "Can't Help Falling in Love," "In the Still of the Night" and "All I Have to Do Is Dream." $15 in Eureka, $20 outside of Eureka, includes a rose. Call 476-1756 during school hours for reservations.
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