BG man sings way into barbershop hall of fame


With his name about to be listed with Meredith Willson, composer of "The Music Man," and the
Buffalo Bills, the original quartet from both the stage and screen versions of the musical, Richard
Mathey of Bowling Green feels like he’s joining "the elite."
On Friday Mathey will be inducted into the Barbershop Harmony Society’s Hall of Fame during the group’s
convention in Anaheim, Calif.
Mathey, who taught at BGSU for more than 30 years, said the credit really should go to the singers in the
many quartets he coached that went on to win medals in international and national competitions.
"They went out and did all the work," Mathey said.
For Mathey it caps a half century of involvement in barbershop singing. A well-respected operatic tenor,
his introduction to singing came in high school.
He had been concentrating on trumpet, when a teacher introduced him in his senior year to barbershop
singing. That ignited passion that’s yet to go out.
He came to teach at BGSU in 1968. As men’s chorus director, he formed a varsity barbershop quartet and
included barbershop numbers in the chorus’ repertoire "to add entertainment value" to
BGSU’s barbershop tradition though started getting broader recognition with the Rapscallion quartet.
Formed in 1980, the quartet went on to win the Harmony Society’s international competition in 1986.
"They just took off," Mathey said, and because of their success interest in barbershop singing
at BGSU "started to explode."
This despite a certain ambivalence from some fellow faculty members to the style. "It’s not readily
accepted at college level," he said. Activity at BGSU is "a rare exception."
According to the Harmony Society, Mathey’s students have accumulated 32 international gold medals. Three
of his student quartets have won collegiate gold medals. Those quartets include Max Q, which will be
performing at the convention. And women from BGSU have earned honors both from the Harmony Society and
Sweet Adelines, Inc.
Mathey’s advocacy for barbershop singing in higher education is singled out in the citation. The plaque
says that Mathey is being honored "for his immeasurable influence in advocating our art form in the
field of higher education."
Mathey believes that "of all the choral forms barbershopping is the most difficult of all."
To start, he said, "it is the hardest to tune."
He likened it to "tuning a piano" with each voice having to be finely tuned in relation to all
the others.
The singers must "align" the vowels in the lyrics.
All this must be executed precisely within a "free flowing style," Mathey said. "You go
with the inflection of the text. There are no bar lines."
Each quartet must also project "a physical presence" that enhances the audience’s enjoyment and
appreciation of the songs.
Mathey believes those audiences could be younger. "We need to send our best quartets into the
schools, and once they hear it they’ll be infected."

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