Singing Telegrams: A new way to celebrate the day of love


Photo by Maeve Yanes.

Emma Dela Cruz, Social Media Editor

This previously ran in our February print issue.

While an assorted box of chocolates or stuffed teddy bear may be classic features of an American Valentine’s Day, the Emmaus High School Choral Department approached the holiday with a unique, melodic twist: singing telegrams.

Beginning on Feb. 6, EHS students “hired” a quartet from the Choral Department to perform a-cappella-style, romantic tunes for others in the building — either anonymously or with a message. Each with four members, the two participating quartets sourced their singers from Aca Bella and Fermata Nowhere, EHS’ female and male a cappella groups, respectively. The fundraiser was a completely new addition to Choral Department traditions, posing both challenges and opportunities at the planning stage.

With the novelty of the fundraiser, senior Jacob Klinedinst, a member of Fermata Nowhere, cites early-to-mid January as the birth of the singing telegram idea.

“I think one of the girls was joking about it at a leadership meeting, and it kind of snowballed from there,” Klinedinst said.

Fermata Nowhere and Aca Bella hold limited performances from January to March, motivating them to make use of this stretch of the year that senior Ashley Baker, a member of Aca Bella, called “dead space.”

As with any fundraiser, however, the singers faced their share of difficulties while planning for the telegrams.

“Time was the biggest obstacle,” Baker said. “Like, when were we gonna practice singing [the songs]?”

In addition, Klinedinst observed a school-wide sense of apathy towards music, posing yet another challenge to the fundraiser.

“You know, I don’t think a lot of the kids in this school appreciate singing and the actual performing arts,” Klinedinst said.

Senior Dom Zientara, a member of Fermata Nowhere, similarly identified apathy as a potential hurdle during the week of sales.

“[Students] might just not buy tickets,” Zientara said.

As for the song menu from which students selected telegrams, the singers considered popularity and relevance when planning the music, including both modern classics and jazz hits. Members of the Choral Department collaborated to ensure that their selections were both relevant and well-known.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Klinedinst factored romance and variety into the song selections.

“If people are trying to embarrass their friends, they’re gonna go for a cheesy song…” Klinedinst said. “But ‘That’s Amore’ and ‘L-O-V-E’ are more jazzy, romantic, older songs that we thought people would find fun if they didn’t want to hear the same One Direction song over and over again.”

While Fermata Nowhere and Aca Bella divided the song menu in half, with each quartet polishing four to five tunes, this information was not made available to students during the week of sales. Instead, all song options were grouped into one list, driving students to make their selections based on the tune itself and not the gender of the quartet behind it.

“We figured it might provide an unnecessary bias if we were renting out per group,” Klinedinst said. “If they’re gonna pick solely because of the gender [of the quartet], that’s not cool.”

Baker expressed similar views to Klinedinst in the decision to sell songs over quartets.

“[We] didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, I want specifically girls or I want specifically guys,’” Baker said.

Reflecting on this latest fundraiser, the vocalists recognized the unique, unorthodox qualities of singing telegrams.

“This idea is personalized,” senior Emily Novak, a member of Aca Bella, said. “It’s very out-there and for people who want something that’s flashy and makes a strong impression.”

While other EHS clubs may sell flowers or chocolate, Baker asserts that the singing telegrams add humor to the mix.

“It’s good for people who want to [playfully] make fun of their friends,” Baker said. “I mean, you can’t make fun of your friends with chocolate.”

Even so, the telegram packages included typical Valentine’s Day treats, blending tradition with the quartets’ affinity for music.

“You can buy flowers or candy with the performance,” Zientara said. “So it’s kind of like you get the best of both worlds.”

By the end of sales week, the Choral Department sold out with a total of 36 telegrams. The vocalists performed  from Feb. 13-15, stopping by recipients’ Hornet Homeroom classes to deliver the songs, along with complimentary telegrams for EHS staff and faculty members as a courtesy of the Choral Department.

While time and energy stood as major commitments of the fundraiser, Baker recognized its ultimate value to the student body.

“It’s really gonna get us out of our comfort zone,” Baker said. “But it’s for love, so it’s worth it.”