For the Love of song

By Mark Baker | Living Here | |

SPRINGFIELD — Sarah Mishler’s face is as red as the rose in her hand.

The Springfield Family Physicians’ medical assistant sits with one hand slightly covering her mouth.

Valentine’s greetings from Jacob we bring …

Now here’s why he asked us to sing …

‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart’

“It’s probably the most fun thing we do,” says Jim Chapman of Eugene’s longtime Cascade Chorus, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.

“Sometimes we can barely get through the song because of the emotion,” says Chapman, of Lowell, who organizes the group’s Singing Valentines.

“We get everything from tears to, ‘No, you’re not going to sing for me.’ ”

Chapman, 69, has been a member of the chorus since being mesmerized by one of its barbershop quartets as a high school student in the early ’60s.

Was Mishler surprised on Friday morning?

“Uh … very,” she says.

Her husband, Jacob Mishler, a University of Oregon student who she says used to sing with the chorus, requested the surprise, performed in the waiting room of the doctors’ office and in front of several of her colleagues — and a couple of patients.

“I love a cappella,” Mishler says. “It’s really sweet of my husband to do this.”

They were married about 18 months ago and live in Springfield, she says.

“We have fun, and we have fun embarrassing people,” says Dale Lafon, 56, of Junction City, who sang baritone with the barbershop quartet that sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Heart of My Heart” for Mishler.

It was the second of seven stops on Friday for the quartet, which also includes Don Kileen (bass), Terry Mann (tenor) and Tim Olguin (lead).

Five or six barbershop quartets from the Cascade Chorus, which began in Eugene in 1946, are out and about this Valentine’s Day weekend, filling requests that cost $40.

Recipients get the two songs, a red rose and a personalized card from the sender.

“I love the music,” says Kileen, 70, of Springfield, a retired IRS agent. “The barbershop chords, when you sing them, there’s nothing like it.

“And, of course, on Valentine’s Day you see the response. It means a great deal for them.

“Some of the most precious moments of my life are singing for people who are disabled or who can’t get out.”

Chorus members need to be quick on your feet this time of year.

The quartet’s first three stops on Friday, all in Springfield, were all 20 minutes apart — at 9 a.m., 9:20 a.m. and 9:40 a.m.

And no, they were not late for a single one. Kileen drove them in his Ford F150 pickup, first to a state Department of Human Services office off Main Street, then to the doctor’s office on Marcola Road and finally to PeaceHealth Laboratories on International Way.

They found Delisa Orr, 55, waiting all by her lonesome in the spacious lobby of the third stop.

Her husband, Richard, had hoped to be there, too, but fell ill on Friday.

Instead, he called his wife and told her to be in the lobby at precisely 9:40 a.m., an odd time, she thought.

That’s when he said they would be there.

“They?” she wondered.

Maybe he was having flowers delivered?

Yes, and a tad more.

Heart of my heart, I love you …

Life would be naught without you …

I can forget you never …

From you I can never sever …

Orr was moved to tears.

“We’ve been married 12 years, and he did this on our first Valentine’s Day, so this is special,” says Orr, a buyer for PeaceHealth Laboratories.

Cascade Chorus started with the singing valentines in the early ’90s. Chapman has been participating in them for about 15 years, he said.

Chapman has seen everything from the surreal scene of a bunch of “grubby, greasy guys” in a west Eugene machine shop listening to themselves being called “sweethearts,” to the manager of a wood stove business who refused to come out and get serenaded.

“We have a Valentine for him,” Chapman recalls telling the man’s assistant.

“He’s in a meeting right now,” the assistant said.

“Could we go in?” Chapman said.

“Let me check,” she said, before returning and adding, “No, he doesn’t want to be bothered right now.”

“Could we buttonhole him somehow?” Chapman said.

“No,” she said. “He’s not much in favor of being buttonholed.”