Valentine’s Day is a holiday filled with love, roses, chocolates — and boys singing love songs in four-part harmony.
Penn Glee Club’s annual Singing Valentines — a tradition that started in the mid-90s — occurs every year on Valentine’s Day. The group, composed of about 60 members including singers, band members and tech members, delivers songs to people in class and on the phone.
“Our current director was a student at Case Western and the music group he was in there did singing valentines,” Vice President of Glee Club and Wharton junior Shohom Basuthakur said. “When he came to Penn in 1992 for graduate school, and was in Glee Club for eight years while getting his Ph.D., he introduced it to the group.”
Every Valentine’s Day, members split up into small groups, and, with the permission of the professor, interrupt class in order to sing one of three songs that they prepare each year for the holiday, including “My Valentine” and “My Little Margie.”
“I love seeing the face of the person that we’re singing to and the variety of responses we get,” President of the Glee Club and Engineering senior Scott Ventre said. “They either think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the most adorable thing,’ or have the look of sheer horror and embarrassment on their face … it’s quite gratifying.”
All the proceeds from Singing Valentines are donated to a specific cause every year, typically Habitat for Humanity.
“We’ve been partnering with one specific charity organization and it’s always been Habitat,” Service Chair of Glee Club and Wharton sophomore Justin Kim said. “We kind of wanted to pick a group with some kind of presence on campus and that was really well known.”
Although the members expressed how much they enjoy singing valentines every year, they also stressed how exhausting and difficult it is to coordinate logistically.
“The nightmare comes the night before because we don’t close the order until the 13th,” Kim said. “Once you have all the orders you need to figure out [scheduling] based on the availability of singers — who should go to McNeil, Claudia Cohen or Huntsman — and that takes forever.”
Not only is it difficult to coordinate singers’ schedules with locations and times, and obtain permission from professors, but the Glee Club is also simultaneously preparing for its spring show, “Office Bass: a Corporate Musical,” which will run Friday and Saturday in the Zellerbach Theater in the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
“Valentine’s Day always falls on our show week, so we’re kind of used to it,” Kim said.
Despite it being one of the busiest weeks for the Glee Club, all the members enjoy singing on Valentine’s Day and even miss class just to have the opportunity to participate in the tradition.
“I would say my favorite part is embarrassing as many people as possible or singing a love song to a professor,” said College of Liberal Professional Studies junior Shaanan Cohney. “And showing my love for her majesty, Amy Gutmann.”
Other members agreed that the anticipation is an exciting part of doing Singing Valentines.
“Have you ever done any sort of sport? Like right before the gun is shot?” College sophomore Charlie McClelland asked. “It’s like that, except that you don’t feel like death afterwards — you just feel like you brightened a person’s day.”
The Glee Club has 18 new members this year, including band and tech members. This year will be the first time that new singers will participate in Singing Valentines.
“It’s cool to be part of the new half — we’re the start of the next 150 years,” College freshman Daniel Carsello said. “And we get to bring love to Penn.”
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