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These singers make house calls

Receiving a singing Valentine, Kim Schlauderaff listens to the barber shop quartet made up of (from left) Gary Gunstinson, Mike Boen, Daryl Haarstick and Don Matteson. The group spends Valentine’s Day traveling around Frazee, Vergas and Detroit Lakes singing to people whose sweethearts hire the group to serenade them. DL NEWSPAPERS/Paula Quam

When Kim Schlauderaff’s boyfriend, Steve, brought her in some roses at work Friday, she thought that was his big showing.

But when four gentleman wearing black dresscoats and black hats came strolling in with a mug and a balloon, she knew she was in for something more.

“We’re looking for Kim,” they announced to the ladies who were working at Maurices in Detroit Lakes that day.

With all fingers pointing at Schlauderaff, the men began to sing in perfect harmony a little ditty called “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” followed up with the acapella version of “Heart of My Hearts”.

“It was very cool,” she said afterward, adding that it’s her and her boyfriend’s first Valentine’s Day together.

“And he did very good,” she said, smiling.

Schlauderaff is one of several women in the area receiving this ultra-romantic gift of a singing Valentine.

The men, who call themselves “Note-ified”, are part of the Heart ‘O Lakes Harmony Quartet, and they’ve been offering up these singing Valentine services for 14 years now.

The barbershop quartet is made up of lead singer Mike Boen, baritone Don Matteson, tenor Gary Gunstinson and bass Daryl Haarstick.

Together, the men spend the day of love spreading the love, as they travel all over Frazee, Vergas and Detroit Lakes singing and handing out balloons, mugs and photos at each event.

The men, who are hired for $35 per perfomance, are part of a non-profit that turns around and uses the money to pay their organization’s funds and to help out local charities.

The group ends up singing to both men and women, and are used to a variety of reactions as they walk into somebody’s work place or come knocking on a door.

“Sometimes ladies will see us coming and they’re like, ‘noooo, not me!’ said  Matteson, laughing “But yes, it’s them.”

It’s hard to miss the twinkle of mischief in the singers’ eyes, as they talk about the gig they’ve come to love.

“It’s so much fun,” said Boen. “We get to meet so many people in so many circumstances, whether it’s to somebody’s home or a teacher’s lounge or a bus garage or a hospital, it’s just fun.”

Although the men say most of the gigs are lighthearted with embarrassed comments like “I’m going to kill him,” or ones where they’re obviously touched by the sweetness of their partner’s gesture, they say there are those times when their own songs can bring them to tears.

Such is the case when last year they were called to a local hospital, where the man they were to sing for had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“And the wife came to hold his hand, and when we started to sing the song, it was immediate tears,” said Matteson, “If you want to see four fat, old guys cry, that would have been us that day.”

The men also told the story of a couple of years ago when they were called out to the Cormorant Pub.

“And after we got done singing the Valentine, the man proposed to his bride-to-be,” said Haarstick, smiling. “That was fun.”

The quartet is certainly kept on the run on this day, too, taking as many as 32 requests a couple of years ago, going to bars, churches, schools, businesses, home — anywhere love can be found.

“Sometimes we gotta chase guys and corner them,” laughed Boen.

The old-fashioned style songs seem to be quite a hit, too, as it is a sound and style rarely heard anymore.

“The harmonies are so close that sometimes it sounds like they’re clashing, but it’s supposed to,” said Haarstick, who agrees with his fellow singers that this is one gig they are glad to have taken up.

“It’s only as fun as you want to make it,” said Matteson, “and we have fun with it.”