Bob Amer has spent the better part of the last five Valentine’s Days traveling to banks, offices, restaurants — wherever duty calls — singing the same two songs: “Heart of My Heart” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” As a member of the Sarasota Chorus of the Keys, each February, the tenor dons a glittery jacket and bow tie and joins a group of nine barbershop quartets that travel around Sarasota to deliver singing Valentines.
“I never get sick of singing them,” says Amer. “It’s the reactions we get. The look on her face, or sometimes his, is remarkable. You never know what you’re getting into.”
Amer has been a member of the Chorus of the Keys for five years and says the holiday offers a unique way for people to show their love. For a $25 donation, a barbershop quartet will surprise a loved one with a rose, a card and a serenade of the two barbershop-standard love songs.
“It beats a box of chocolates,” says Amer.
Although the gig demands an entire day of performances, Amer enjoys spending the day with three fellow crooners. He says making people happy is well worth it.
During one serenade last year, Amer remembers visiting a Venice hospital, where one of the patients happened to be a former barbershop quartet singer.
“His daughter hired us for him, because she thought he’d like to hear that music again,” says Amer. “He couldn’t talk, but he perked right up when we started singing, and he was mouthing the words along with us. Those are the kind of reactions that make it worth it.”
Amer, along with the rest of the Chorus of the Keys, will be performing No. 1 hits from the ’50s through the ’90s at 2:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Riverview Performing Arts Center, 1 Ram Way. For information, call 484-7589.
ALL IN A DAY’S WORK
•The Chorus of the Keys barbershop quartets serenade people each Valentine’s Day with the standards, “Heart of my Heart” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” “Those are two standards that you learn from the start,” says President Brian Clark. “Any four barber shoppers anywhere in the country will know those songs.”
• Serenading sweethearts is no nine-to-five job. Last year, Bob Amer says his day began at 8:30 a.m. and didn’t end until 9:30 p.m.
• In addition to two love songs, each recipient gets a rose and a card signed by their valentine.
• One woman hired Amer and his quartet to surprise her husband at the gym. “He looked like he could be a linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” says Amer. “As we’re singing, I’m thinking, ‘He’s going to kill us,’ but when we finished, he just laughed.”
• Amer says it’s not uncommon for women to cry during the performance. “They can’t believe that their valentine would think so much about them,” he says.