During a Valentine's Day several years ago, Fairfax resident Janene Pence sang for an Arlington couple with five young children. Seeing the children lined up to hear Pence's quartet serenade the couple warmed her heart.
"It was the sweetest thing to see them," Pence said.
For the past several years, Pence has delivered singing valentines with her quartet, Midnight Special. The singing valentines serve as a fund-raiser for the Potomac Harmony Chorus, an Arlington-based, 120-member women's barbershop chorus of which her quartet is a part. Potomac Harmony Chorus, a chapter of Sweet Adelines International, delivers valentines throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District during a three-day stretch around Valentine's Day.
Each delivery comes with chocolates, a card and two songs. Although most deliveries occur in person, the quartet has also sung them over the phone.
"There's nothing like performing for people and seeing the joy that gives to people," Pence said, on singing with her quartet.
Pence, who has been singing with the chorus for almost 20 years, recalled the first time she ever delivered a singing valentine. A gentleman had taken his wife out to lunch, and they returned to her office. The members of the quartet placed themselves on one side of the room, and the woman came into the room from the other side. As they started singing, the woman looked furious. Pence was disconcerted, but continued to sing. She later found out that it wasn't anger that the woman was feeling. The woman was so moved that she was trying not to cry.
"In the best of times, music brings joy and sweetness to people," Pence said.
DURING ANOTHER DELIVERY, the quartet came to the house of a young couple. The wife was ill and had had chemotherapy earlier that morning. They sang for the couple as well as they could.
"It just broke our hearts. But again, you have to do your job," Pence recalled.
Yet while some deliveries were bittersweet, others have given Pence warm memories. One wife asked the quartet to sing "Blueberry Hill" to her husband. They later discovered that he belonged to a 1950s group.
"He was so tickled," Pence said.
In another year, the quartet stopped by Pence's hairdresser, and the office manager asked them to come to her house at the end of the day to sing for her father and fiancé. They stayed there and sang for hours.
"You cannot get together ... and not feel better afterward," Pence said.
For this year, Pence will take the day off from her job in corporate communications at a local software firm to deliver her singing valentines. While she'll be singing valentines to couples across the region, she won't be singing them to her husband. Her husband, John, also delivers singing valentines as a member of the Alexandria Harmonizers, a men's barbershop chorus.
"We always find another occasion to have our own sweetheart day," Pence said.
Yet for Pence, there's nothing else she'd rather do for Valentine's Day.
"[I like] making someone smile, laugh, or cry with joy," Pence said.