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Myrtle Beach area bursting with love this week

"Loving's such a beautiful thing," as the Bee Gees brothers - Barry, Robin and the late Maurice Gibb - sang in "Too Much Heaven," a ballad from their disco era in the late 1970s.

The celebration of love - whether between mates, family members, friends or even among a group or class - doesn't have to wait until Valentine's Day. Many special events will pump up the weekend leading to the worldwide observance on Monday, the second-most popular holiday for sending seasonal cards, behind only Christmas, according to data from the Greeting Card Association.

Performances, father-daughter dances and a romantic cruise represent some of the ways to make a special memory with a loved one or friend.

Tonight, the Carolina Master Chorale begins a weekend of concerts, "Hearts of Passion II: Sing Me a Love Song."

Larry Wilson, executive director and a singer, said the group will perform a Saturday matinee for the first time in its 28 years. He said officials hope that concertgoers that afternoon will have the opportunity to double on quality time and enjoy the evening with someone they love.

The Chorale program will run the gamut of songs, such as "Ave Maria," "A Heart Full of Love" from "Les Miserables," and a section called "Love Down Abbey Road," with three Beatles numbers including "In My Life" and "When I'm Sixty-Four."

"Love songs always hold a special place within our mind," Wilson said. "Most couples I know have a song they refer to as 'our song,' and it might not necessarily be what one typically thinks of when thinking love songs. Love brings together people, places, songs, events, family, country, community and a higher power."

Wilson said the goal of the singers in this concert involves expressing the powerful emotion of love.

"It's a sharing of emotion between the singer and the listener," Wilson said. "In fact, that's what singing is all about, and it doesn't have to be love songs in this sharing of emotion."

The Grand Strand Opera Workshop gathers the second Monday monthly in Carolina Forest to watch a production on DVD. A 2008 film version of Puccini's "La Boheme," starring Anna Netrebko as Mimi, with music by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, will play for Valentine's Day evening, and free red roses will be given to all women in attendance. The film is shorter than the average opera, too: 109 minutes.

Workshop officials praise this production for its blend of breathtaking and tragic elements.

"I expect to cry again when I see this next Monday," said Bob Gorski, chairman, in an update to members last week.

The Barefoot Princess riverboat will sail in romantic dinner mode on Saturday and Monday from North Myrtle Beach.

Debbie Kirk, co-owner with her husband, said in this third decade of business, their first cruises of their year happen around Valentine's Day.

With live music on board and some extra candy stowed to share, "We try to make it kind of romantic," Kirk said. "We decorate a little bit for Valentine's Day."

She checked the calendar, but noticed the next full moon is a week away.

Even without much of a moonlit night, "It'll still be a romantic evening on the water," Kirk said. "We'll head north toward Grande Dunes and turn around. It'll last about two hours."

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, near Myrtle Beach, has saddled up a Couples Valentine's package nightly through Monday.

Jennifer Hawk Willard, marketing and sales manager, said the timing of the show's plot - about a captured prince and a princess yearning for his return - goes hand in hand for Valentine's Day, the first big holiday event of the year at the castle.

"It's the pageantry and the romance that go along with this holiday," Willard said, "that make it extra special in the sense of relating to the royal, medieval times."

Free flowers for women remain a mainstay for this annual occasion, yet officials do not see any dominant demographic for these special shows.

"It's mostly couples of all ages," Willard said, hoping everyone takes home an unforgettable experience.

The other stars of the show, besides the jousting knights on horseback and all the behinds-the-scenes support staff, are not forgotten, either: the 21 Andalusian stallions and two falcons.

"I'm sure they'll get lots of extra love on Valentine's Day," Willard said.

She also already has begun thinking about what she called "the next romantic holiday" at the 11th-century, Spanish-theme castle. Mother's Day is May 8.

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