Trudy Zonneveld

‘Tis the season for singing telegrams

By Mario Bartel

Black Press

Trudy Zonneveld has seen people react with glee, bewilderment, shock and even embarrassment to her singing. But she never thought it would help her get out of a speeding ticket.

Zonneveld is a member of the Westcoast Harmony Chorus, and every Valentine’s Day for the past 22 or 23 years, about half the group is divided into quartets to deliver musical messages of love and devotion all across Metro Vancouver. The singing telegrams are the group’s major annual fundraiser to help cover the costs of coaching, music and costumes.

It was while running late to one of those appointments when Zonneveld’s quartet was pulled over for exceeding the speed limit in a school zone. As the driver was explaining their situation to the officer the group broke into song. Bemused and delighted, the officer even called over his partner to share the show. The quartet got off with a warning.

Over the years the quartets have performed in classrooms, construction sites, a high school gym class, the wrestling room at Simon Fraser University, offices, private homes, hospitals, beside train tracks in North Vancouver, even a wrecking yard. One group delivered a particularly moving Valentine to a patient in palliative care.

He could no longer eat, so he couldn’t enjoy chocolates, explains Jackie Baron, and flowers would likely outlast him; a singing love message was the best way his partner could think of showing him her gratitude for all their years together.

While every member of the chorus is an accomplished singer, each of the Valentine’s quartets must audition to ensure their harmonies mesh.

“We pride ourselves that when we sing to you, we sound good,” says Zonneveld.

Recipients also get a rose, a chocolate treat and a personal message from their beloved.

A singing Valentine costs $50. It can also be delivered by phone for $25. The quartets are on the road on Feb. 14 from 7 a.m. to as late as 11:30 p.m., from West Vancouver to Abbotsford. They’re dispatched from a central “war room” that coordinates the bookings to keep the driving as efficient as possible; a quartet can deliver as many as 25-30 Valentines.

“It’s so fun and hilarious,” says Zonneveld. “It’s a joy.”

To make a booking, right up until Feb. 14, call 604-507-1432 or email Shayna.Steeves@modspace.com