VIDEO: Silvertones spread love through song

The Silvertones celebrate Valentines Day for yet another year by bursting into classrooms, bringing humiliation galore.

Sylvan Prey-Harbaugh '23Nate Anderson '23

By Rhys Hals '23, Strath Haven High School

For almost 30 years, Valentine’s Day at Strath Haven has included music-filled halls and interrupted classes. The tradition of Singing Valentines is a student-led event that has been passed down from one generation of Silvertones to the next.

This year, senior Sophie DeCristofaro led the preparations for the love-themed caroling day. The Silvertones rehearse before school every day, but starting in November, Tuesdays were designated especially for Singing Valentines practice.

“I play the piano so I’m able to play out individual parts,” DeCristofaro said. “I listen to it and see what needs to be adjusted.”

The catalog of songs sung has not changed much over the years, with Britney Spears’s “Toxic,” The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” on rotation. However, some years, the students pick a new song to add.

“This year I arranged ‘Honey Honey’ by ABBA,” DeCristofaro said, “Yeah, we have some newer ones, but then there’s also classics.”

The older Silvertones are able to recall the arrangements from previous years and can help pass on the tradition to the newbies. Through this method of student-led preparation, the director of Silvertones, music teacher Mr. John Shankweiler, can take a step back.

“I listen to them and give my suggestions but…it’s sort of like corporate memory,” Shankweiler said. “They remember it from last year and they teach the new students for this year. They take ownership in it and it’s fun.”

The day before winter break, the Silvertones spontaneously carol in the halls. In the early 90s Singing Valentines evolved out of this festive tradition.

“We’ve always done the sort of clandestine caroling,” Shankweiler said. “It came out of that. We put together some really great arrangements back in the very late 80s, early 90s.”

At its core, the tradition has not changed much, but in the planning and organization of student orders for songs, technology has made the process easier.

“It’s evolved, in many ways it’s gotten a lot better. Spreadsheets and the computer have made it a lot easier. In the beginning it was always stacks of paper,” Shankweiler said.

The money raised from the purchased Singing Valentines goes into the Silvertones student account and is compiled for the Italy tours.

Besides raising money for the singing group, the tradition is a way to spread cheer and raise school spirit.

“It’s a way to have some school spirit and lighten the day on Valentine’s day and it’s something totally different and I think that’s fun,” senior Nathaniel Hodges said.

To junior Julia McClean, spreading the spirit is one of the best parts of Singing Valentines. “I think it’s fun…to celebrate what Valentine’s day is, to spread love and fun and good cheer,” she said.

Another part of the excitement on the Silvertones’ end is seeing the expression on the face of the recipients. “People get surprised and sometimes embarrassed and it’s fun to see their reaction,” freshman Ryan Markey said.

Aside from a long lunch break, the Silvertones spend the whole day walking around the school singing, which is both physically and mentally taxing.

“We had a pretty long lunch break so that was nice. We just went outside and laid on the grass,” junior Callie Susek said. “We just have to wait till we get home to relax.”

To keep her voice alive, Susek’s main strategy is to stay hydrated.

“Mostly just drink a lot of water and hope you can make it.”

This story was originally published on Panther Press on February 25, 2023.