BRISTOL — Every Valentine’s Day since 1999, the halls of Mount Abraham Union Middle and High School have resonated with love songs. The Mount Abe a cappella singing group has turned the day of love into a playful tradition of surprising, embarrassing and tickling their fellow students with tunes from the heart.
Leading up to Feb. 14 each year, Mount Abe students can pay a small fee to have the a cappella group belt out love songs to whoever the students like — whether it’s a significant other, a teacher, a friend, a sibling or a grandma. That fee funds the group’s annual tour, and from 8:20 a.m. until late on the Valentine’s Day evening, the a cappella singers turn hundreds of faces bright red. Clad in crimson hues, they sprint from room to room singing to designated valentines and making calls to beloved family members whom they can’t serenade in the middle of math class.
“It really has become a tradition,” said junior a cappella singer Taylor Allred, as he prepared to deliver a serenade this past Tuesday morning. “Everybody knows it’s Valentine’s Day. The a cappella group is going to go around singing to people and that’s just something that people look forward to, and everyone wants to be involved in. We all really enjoy it.”
The roots of this fabled Mount Abe ritual can be traced backed to Montana, where chorus teacher Megan LaRose grew up. When LaRose was in high school, she and her chorus group issued what she calls “singing valentines” to people around town.
“Half of the songs (the Mount Abe students sing today) are from the original set that I sang as a kid in Montana,” said LaRose.
In her second year at Mount Abe, in 1999, she decided to rekindle the melody, but she gave the singing valentines a little twist. She just couldn’t refrain from bringing the chorus into the classroom.
“I decided I really like what happens in the school when the kids go around and sing to the classes,” said LaRose “I think it’s school spirit, it’s excitement, it’s energy and it’s also a chance for the kids to interact with people they usually wouldn’t interact with. And it’s nice to put kids on the spot because kids receive valentines and they’re not sure what they’re supposed to do with themselves. So it’s kind of a fun way to let personality show.”
The a cappella students also look forward to the big day.
“We love it,” said sophomore Quinn Davis. “Right before Christmas break ends we get so excited to come back and learn these songs.”
In the name of love, they also look forward to a day of disrupting the schools’ regular routine.
“No one gets anything done today,” said senior Sarah Stratton with a big smile on her face, right before the first period bell rang.
But Valentine’s Day means more to LaRose and her students than just flowers and a cappella.
“Particularly in the school setting, Valentine’s Day is a day to just show this is a good place to be. This is a caring place to be,” said LaRose. “There’s a lot of positive people in this school and a lot of positive things that happen.”
To Stratton, Valentine’s Day isn’t just about kisses and candy, it’s about being thankful for the friends and family dear to her heart.
“I think it’s less about the relationships — the boyfriends and girlfriends — than it is about being appreciative of the people you have in your life,” she said.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]