84 year-old Jim Richards has been singing with barbershop choruses for over half a century. The international singing organization, Barbershop Harmony Society, recently welcomed Richards into its Hall of Fame, not just because of his tenure as a singer, but also his role as a teacher. Richards has used his PhD in Physics to teach barbershop singers about the physics of sound.
For those of us who are music theory novices, Richards explains that a “tuned” piano is actually slightly out of tune, in order to divide up the notes into a 12 key scale. Singers can actually hit the “pure” or “true” notes, which he says is much more satisfying to the ear:
When you hear it sung and sung in tune, it is magic. It is pure magic and being part of that, it feeds the soul. That’s why it’s not a hobby for me, but an obsession.
Richards will be heading to Anaheim, California in the next few days for the Barbershop Singers annual international convention. Two local groups will be performing there – the Minneapolis Commodores (in which Richards sings) and the Great Northern Union.