| Published: February 4, 2004
With a song in their hearts
by Elizabeth White
people receive singing valentines from the Adagio barbershop quartet,
they may smile, laugh, turn red or cry.
The quartet members just might shed a tear, too.
"We love it. We really bring so much joy to everybody, whether they're young
kids, whether they're old," said Steve Sammonds, the quartet's lead
singer and director of its parent choir, the Peninsulaires. The choir rehearses
Palo Alto's Cubberley Community Center.
Wearing white tuxedos, the quartet sings two songs -- "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and "Heart
of My Heart." A rose and a card are included in the $50 delivery.
Singing valentines from San Mateo to San Jose each year, the group is sometimes
struck by the reaction of a recipient.
"It's very emotional," said Dave Morley, the quartet's
He recalled a delivery last year at the Veterans Hospital. "We sang to someone
who was literally flat on his back" with a spinal injury, Morley said. "That
was touching. But some of them are hard for us to sing to, because
we know we're singing to someone who's sick or dying."
The quartet members say they look forward most to their Valentine's Day duties
because they sing to known individuals rather than a large, anonymous audience.
And even if singing to an individual, the quartet may still have a large audience.
Sammonds recalls the time the group went to Gunn High School to deliver a lunchtime
valentine to a male student. The group thought students would laugh it right
off the school grounds and throw food. On the contrary.
"The whole quad just went completely silent and afterward they all cheered
for us," Sammonds said. "That's one of the more memorable
ones for me."
It's reactions like those that keep Sammonds, Morley, Chuck Thompson and Mark
Torrance energetic for their weekly three-hour practices, which are above and
beyond the three hours they put in for the regular choir.
Adagio, which is registered with the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement
of Barber Shop Quartet Singing, and enters competitions regularly, is not a typical
group. Usually quartets have members in the same generation, but Adagio's members
range in age from 34 to 63. And their backgrounds are as diverse as their ages.
Morley, 63, who's been with the choir the longest -- 37 years -- just retired
last year from Fujitsu as a product manager. Thompson, 52, the group's bass,
works in precision sheet metal.
But the quartet members said their varied backgrounds don't matter and that for
many months no one even knows how a new Peninsulaires member spends his days.
"It's irrelevant," Morley said. "We just get into
it because we love to sing."
Sammonds estimates Adagio will be busy on Feb. 13 and 14 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
and will deliver about 25 valentines each day. So will each of the other, less
"We've gotten seven orders already and we never get them this early," Morley
But Torrance, a Web designer who works with Fannie Mae, says the group and the
other quartets always have room for more of the 10-minute gigs. Adagio has gotten
calls for an emergency show on Valentine's Day more than once, Morley said.
Amid all their Valentine's Day engagements, the quartet's members still find
time to serenade their wives. Torrance brought the quartet along to surprise
his wife last year, and Morley has caught his wife off guard a couple of times.
Bonny Morley said those memories more than make up for not having her husband
around on the most romantic day of the year.
"I groused a lot at the beginning, but the reality is that it brings so
much pleasure to them, the quartet, but it also brings so much pleasure to the
people they sing to," she said. "It can be very touching.
We've been married 40 years this summer, and it's been a long journey,
And she's always willing to help the group practice by serving as its living-room
"Generally our wives are understanding and supportive," Sammonds
To order a singing Valentine from Adagio or the other Peninsulaires quartets, call (408) 867-3798 or visit the Web site at www.barbershop-harmony.org. The groups require at least a two-hour window to deliver the valentine