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Serenaded by a barbershop quartet: ‘For the most part, people turn red’

Members of the City of Lakes Chorus offer a Valentine’s Day treat in four-part harmony

3 min read
A tuxedo-clad barbershop quartet singing.
caption The Deacon Aires quartet, Hugh Dickie, Raymond MacDonald, Fred Grainger and John Cordiner.
Linea Volkering
A tuxedo-clad barbershop quartet singing.
caption Hugh Dickie, Raymond MacDonald, Fred Grainger and John Cordiner are the Deacon Aires quartet.
Linea Volkering

Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day… and for Hugh Dickie, so is song.

The very first time he sang with a barbershop quartet, the ring of the chords made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

The unique barbershop sound of bass, baritone, lead and tenor voices coming together have had a lasting effect on Dickie. Fourteen years later, he now sings weekly with the City of Lakes Chorus in Dartmouth.

He also lends his voice to two out of their three organized quartets.

“I just love it – it’s one of the most fun things you can do, having those three other guys with you and having that harmony there. It’s just absolutely wonderful,” says Dickie.

“I come in tired and I go home energized,” he says.

Every year, Dickie and his quartet counterparts are hired by Nova Scotians looking to make their loved ones swoon. Their service? Singing valentines — complete with roses and a box of chocolates. Tuxedo-clad with songs at the ready, Dickie and his quartet serenade the unsuspecting on Valentine’s Day. And it will only cost you $50.  

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Dickie has even surprised his own special someone.

His wife, also a “barbershopper,” was singing at a senior citizens’ home when Dickie’s quartet showed up unannounced to sing to his sweetheart.     

“It broke them all up in tears,” says Dickie, whose wife was brought to the front for the display of affection. “It was an unforgettable moment.”  

Quartets from the chorus are hired every Valentine’s Day and are typically booked to sing on 12 to 30 occasions that week. The interest in barbershop is not limited to the day of love; he says their Christmas concert also sells out every year.

Chris Preston, a fellow barbershopper with the City of Lakes Chorus, laughs when asked about people’s reactions to a surprise Valentine’s Day quartet.

“For the most part, people turn red — there’s a little bit of embarrassment,” says Preston, describing the surprise of four older tuxedo-clad men breaking out in song in front of them.

Overcome with shock, sometimes the recipient of a singing valentine will turn around and walk away… only to come back out and literally face the music, says Preston.  

This year, the City of Lakes Chorus is offering a new service for military personnel wanting to send a little love from abroad on Valentine’s Day.

“Anybody who is deployed can come and give us the name of their spouse, their mother, their father, their cousin, their sister — it doesn’t matter where they want us to sing, we will go there and with a local sponsor (footing) the bill,” says Preston.   

The chorus is hoping this initiative will expand every year, perhaps spreading the love Canada-wide.

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  1. C

    Chris Preston

    We were very happy to sing to you and you are welcome back anytime. Thanks you for showing up and for the awesome article. Please, if you can send us the pictures you took, so we can add the to our website.
  2. R

    Rob Cordiner

    John Cordiner is on the far right. Not second fro left.
    • L

      Linea Volkering

      Hi Rob, Thank you for pointing that out. A correction has been made.
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