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Let me call you sweetheart

Your Valentine has seen it all, so what do you get shnookums this year to make it unique?

How about a singing Valentine?

Today and Sunday, which is officially Valentine’s Day, four different area barbershop quartets are offering two songs and a red rose in a vase for $35 to keep you in good graces with your significant other.



The quartets will be available in the Grass Valley, Lake of the Pines, Auburn and Lincoln areas. (See the accompanying contact information box for more information).

“Primarily, we sing old songs that have a message and harmonization,” said Bill Beck, lead singer for the Chord Miners that will perform in the Grass Valley area. “We perform old songs like grandma and grandpa sang for family entertainment around the table before radio and TV.”




Most of the music comes from the 1890s to the 1920s, Beck said.

“There are quartets who sing contemporary songs, Broadway tunes and others when they can, but hip-hop and all that stuff doesn’t really fit the mold,” said the 80-year-old Beck.

Bass singer Elmer Fairbanks is 80 as well and baritone Roger Fox is 77.

“I’ve been doing it for 28 years,” Fox said of his barbershop career. “It keeps me sane and it’s good for my breathing.”

Fairbanks has been in the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America for 63 years, according to Beck.

At 67, tenor Dean Rice is “the youngster” of the group, with 18 years under his belt as a member of the society.

“I’ve been singing barbershop since 1964,” Rice said, and joined the society in 1992.

“The aging process is inevitable, but God doesn’t count the time when you are singing,” Rice said. “I never met a singer with a frown.”

Rice is particularly geared up for the weekend.

“Singing Valentines create memories and memories are the only thing you can keep,” Rice said. “I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul.”

Barbershop quartets have a different harmonic setup that makes it unique, Beck said.

“The melody is sung by the lead and there is a natural harmony above the tenor sings, and a natural below the bass sings, and the baritone fills out the chord. When it’s sung well, it creates overtones that create a fifth note.”

Verne Bagby’s quartet, The 4T9R4, covers the south county area out of Lake of the Pines.

“I’ve been a barbershopper for 25 years,” Bagby said. He was introduced to the genre in 1939 as a child in Colorado Springs by his father.

“It’s the greatest hobby in the world,” Bagby said.

For the singing Valentine’s jobs, “We’ll be all dressed up in white coats, black pants, red vests and red bow ties, pretty valentinish, pretty spiffy,” Bagby said.

Bagby is the lead singer and other group members include: tenor Steve Mathews, bass Tony Prowense, and baritone Corley Phillips.

The groups will hit the streets today and Sunday, Beck said, singing tunes such as “Story of A Rose,” often called “Heart of My Heart,” for a line within it, “I Love You Truly” and “My Wild Irish Rose.”

The groups are singing today to accommodate work schedules and then again on Sunday at the homes and places they are beckoned to, Beck said.

Several years ago on a Friday afternoon, the group serenaded a male worker at The Union right in the front lobby.

The embarrassed employee “wound up under his desk,” Beck said.

To order a singing Valentine, call 559-5288 (Grass Valley), 268-3405 (Lake of the Pines), 823-0339 (Auburn), or 268-3405 (Lake of the Pines).

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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