Barbershop Quartet Prepares for Valentines Day - Southern Maryland Headline News

Barbershop Quartet Prepares for Valentines Day

By Sarah Miller, County Times

Southern Maryland Sound rehearses Tuesday night on the College of Southern Maryland Leonardtown Campus. The group is open to men of all ages who want to come make a noise. [Click photo for larger rendition] (Photo: Sarah Miller)
Southern Maryland Sound rehearses Tuesday night on the College of Southern Maryland Leonardtown Campus. The group is open to men of all ages who want to come make a noise. [Click photo for larger rendition] (Photo: Sarah Miller)

HOLLYWOOD, Md. — Barbershop quartets aren’t something just seen in old movies and musicals. Anybody in Building B of the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) on Thursday evenings will be treated to the sounds of a men’s chorus ringing through the hallways of the second floor.

Southern Maryland Sound, the tri-county chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, has made St. Mary’s County their home for the past 25 years. In addition to the main chorus, there are some quartets who have come to call St. Mary’s County home.

Matt Long is one of the youngest people in the group, having been with them for only three years after joining in his freshman year of high school. He is also one of the four men who make up a sub group of the chorus, the Three and a Half Men Quartet. The other three people in the group are Tom Chedester, who has been in the chorus for five years, Greg Stachelczyk, a seven-year member, and Matt Menard, a 14-year member of the chorus.

For many of the members in the chorus, joining the group is a memorable experience.

Long joined at the suggestion of his father, Philip, and had his first rehearsal the night before his first concert with the chorus. Since then, singing in the chorus has become a family activity. Long’s father, and brother Greg, have also been singing in the choir for the past few years. They form three-fourths of one of the quartets that split from the main chorus, with a fourth member rotating from among the other men in the chorus.

Chedester said being in the chorus was his wife’s idea, to get him out of the house.

“My wife forced me into this and five years later here I am,” he said.

The men don’t have to audition to be in the group, and most of them are what they refer to as “ambidextrous singers.”

“Just pick one [part] and I’ll pick up what you leave behind,” Greg said.

Ritter said the only requirement for men who want to sing in the chorus is they come make a noise. The men don’t even have to be able to read music because the director makes sure the men know what they’re doing at the end of the day.

“[She] beats it into us,” Ritter said. Diane Trautman, the director of the group, is a former music teacher for St. Mary’s County Public Schools who still substitutes as necessary. She’s been the director of Southern Maryland Sound for the past three years.

The chorus as a whole tries to have at least one concert per month, according to Ritter, who acts as the schedule keeper for the group. They perform at senior homes, the county fair and the oyster festival, among other locations, Ritter said. They also go caroling at Christmas. The quartets perform during the chorus’s concerts, in addition to independent concerts.

In addition to the monthly concerts the whole chorus puts on, Three and a Half Men will be offering special Valentine’s Day concerts. For $40, the quartet can be hired to visit a person’s home or workplace in St. Mary’s County and sing to them.

For $20, a person can hire the quartet to call their special someone living outside the county and serenade them over the phone with a rendition of songs such as “Let me Call You Sweet Heart” and “In the Still of the Night.”

The quartet will sing anywhere, Chedester said. There was one year when a wife had the quartet go serenade her husband, a gunnery sergeant in the military, when he was at work.

“I was so happy to get out of there that first year,” Menard said. According to him, it’s a little intimidating to sing to a man who is armed and getting angry. When they went back the next year, the gunnery sergeant’s wife was present and he turned on the public address system to allow the quartet to serenade the whole building. For more information, or to book a concert, contact Ritter at 301-481-8536.

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