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Singing Telegram Service for Valentine's Day Tries to Revive the Tradition

By Emily Frost | February 13, 2013 12:09pm

UPPER WEST SIDE — Forget flowers and chocolate; if you want to win over your sweetie this Valentine's Day, do it with a song.

That's according Evelyn Troester, the founder and artistic director of Ghostlight Chorus and a Columbia University music education doctoral candidate, who's trying to revive the tradition of the singing telegram.

On Valentine's Day last year, Ghostlight Chorus launched its "Singing Valentines" program, in which for $50 a handful of members will surprise your lover, or friend or colleague, with a rendition of "My Funny Valentine."

For long-distance beaus, the choir will call them and sing over the phone at an appointed time for $20. 

If Ghostlight Chorus senses any embarrassment when they arrive, they'll pump up the schmaltz factor, said Troester.

"There was one lady who sent us to sing for her husband at a graphic design studio, which was very chic, very hip," remembered Troester. "He was like 'Oh my God!' He almost died. He was turning red," — which was exactly what the wife had in mind, said Troester.

"If someone wants to tease [the recipient,] we can be extra cheesy," she said.

The unexpected song usually draws a crowd, said Troester, "and if we’re in an office building, we get sent to other floors," as officemates decide to spoof their colleagues.

The song, "My Funny Valentine," "is fun and cheeky," not necessarily overly romantic, said Troester, making it appropriate for friends, sisters and grandmothers too.

Troester said the chorus has received instructions in the past to keep the name of the sender unkown, but "the best is when the people who give the valentine come with us. They hide behind a door," she said, and then pop out at the end.

"Music speaks immediately to the heart," Troester said, but the singing telegram is also a thoughtful gift, without having to put in much thought, time or energy.

"It’s New York, who has time to think of something really creative?" she said.