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Songs of love

Times-Mirror Staff Photos/Beverly Denny
From left, Dick Smull, bass, Dale Bird and Roger Harte, baritone, rehearse with the Chorus of the Old Dominion at Leesburg United Methodist Church Feb. 7 to perform singing Valentines for the holiday this week.

Story: For a 3-month-old, Brianna isn't fussy or impatient as she sits in her baby seat through a two-hour long meeting.

But then again, most infants don't have a live chorus of 15 to 22 men lulling them into smiles with their pure melodies of love and Doo Wop songs.

The daughter of Sally Galloway, the music director of the Chorus of the Old Dominion, Brianna goes from blank stare to smiles in seconds as soon as the men harmonize.

Brianna, 3-months-old, Chorus of the Old Dominion Music Director Sally Galloway's daughter, watches calmly before rehearsal at Leesburg United Methodist Church Feb. 7.

The group is hoping for the same reaction today and the days following as they set out for their annual Singing Valentine ritual.

Booked by husbands or boyfriends for their significant others, or by co-workers as a prank, the chorus roams the county on Valentine’s Day. The performances are the main staple for fundraising for the group.

The reaction, according to Mike Jacks, a bass and baritone whose been with the chorus since 2003, is a lot of times mixed – and often comical.

"First they're sort of shocked. Sometimes I've felt like people thought we might look like strippers," Jacks' joked as his fellow singers burst into laughter. "No, really, we don't remove any clothing. But once we start singing there's sometimes embarrassment. People's faces turn red and their co-workers just love it. They like to see the excitement on their face."

The group has a mantra for selling its Singing Valentines, which includes not only song, but a red rose, a greeting card and photo to remember the moment.

"We always tell guys 'you can do all kinds of wrong during the year and you'll be forgiven," Jacks said.

The chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society was originally started by four men who were driving to Frederick, Md. to sing with a group there. They decided they wanted to have a chapter in Loudoun County and began meeting at the Leesburg United Methodist Church in downtown, where the group still rehearses today.

Soon, word caught on and a quartet became a chorus.

"We've grown and we're known all over Loudoun County," Jacks said. "The barbershop songs and the Doo Wop songs that we sing are seen at a lot of community events. People really enjoy the music that we bring to them and they're really excited when they know we're going to be singing."

Although recently hired as the group's music director, Galloway is a classically trained singer whose roots in barbershop goes back 35 years. She sang with the Sweet Adelines, the international female version of barbershop, in the past and believes her background and the Old Dominion's vast experience will enable them to "hit the ground running."

The men are competing in the Southern Division Contest April 26-28 in Reston. They can also be booked for other singing engagements, such as parties.

"As the director what I'm looking for, and very happy to find, is I already have a great base of men who love to sing. And they enjoy the challenge of a cappella music," Galloway said.

Music director Sally Galloway leads rehearsal of the Chorus of the Old Dominion at Leesburg United Methodist Church Feb. 7. Galloway has been directing the all-male a cappella singing group for three weeks to prepare them to perform singing Valentines for the holiday today.

Included in the group's repertoire is barbershop standards, Doo Wop gospel and patriotic, among others.

"We cover the gamet of what audiences like," she said. "… I would really like to work in some type of a classical piece as a tool for learning a different style of singing."

And then there's the impromptu – some of the men happened to be walking by the Loudoun County Courthouse as a couple emerged, newly married. That song was on the house, veteran singer Dick Smull said.

Inside the Chorus of the Old Dominion is a quartet – Cavalcade-- made up of Will Hude, Bobby Horne, Frank Shipp and lead Tim Peterson.

The group recently performed on WJLA's Arch Campbell Show as well as birthday parties and teas at Oatlands Plantation.

"We really try and get together and sing as quartets. Quartets is a lot of fun," Peterson said.

The group is looking to recruit new members and pass the tradition of barbershop on to new generations.

Old Dominion has performed at after school programs for middle and high school students in the county and held workshops to introduce them to a capella. Galloway has already set up meetings with Loudoun's Superintendent of School's music director.

For Galloway, she believes a capella music will never die.

" … By bringing this kind of stuff back into the school and demonstrating not just that it's fun to do but that it gets the kids fired up and they want to be in school and they perform better academically," Galloway said. "This provides balance, which is crucial for kids' attention spans."


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