KATHMANDU, July 22: No need for introductions to Glee, the Emmy and Golden Globe awards winning hit musical TV series. And watching The Whiffenpoofs is like having Glee play out in front of you.
The tradition of 14 senior men in Yale University forming The Whiffenpoofs each year began in 1909. The first Whiffenpoofs comprised of five senior Yale students, meeting at the famous Yale tavern, Mory’s Temple Bar, for weekly concerts.
A century later, each generation of The Whiffenpoofs are still carrying forward the legacy with great pride. They perform not only within campus but also all over their country and even sing at various concerts across the world.
Stumbling across the name Whiffenpoofs would make us question it. The legend is that the group is named after a mythical dragon fish named Whiffenpoof and the name was spun out by one of the founding members, Denton Fowler.
Denton’s fellow members found it apt for the camaraderie that the group shared and the ambiance during their rehearsals and performances.
If you go to their website, it reads that The Whiffenpoofs of Yale are “the world´s oldest and best-known collegiate a cappella group”.
That claim certainly seems true after one hears them perform one after another great song.
Cappella music is performed by a solo artist or a group singing without any instruments. Their voices have to be their greatest asset, entertaining the listeners without resorting to any musical instruments to accompany them and heighten the senses of the listeners.
Every spring the seniors of Yale University go through a short audition and only the best make it. While some of The Whiffenpoofs of 2012 did have musical experiences, it’s not a necessity to be chosen into the prestigious club.
This year, the Glee club of Yale comprise of young talents Alex Fayette, Pat Rutan, Michael Blume and Eliot Shimer on bass, Ker Medero, Jeremy Lloyd and Eli Mitchell-Larson on first tenor, David Martinez, Alexander Okiand Raphael Shapiro on baritone, and Benjamin Watsky, Jack O´Reilly, Mitchel Kawash, and John Yi on second tenor.
They try and squeeze in practice sessions at least four times a week, but with so many performances lined up, now they end up practicing their routines more.
With a designated musical director, Benjamin Watsky, and business manager, Alexander Oki, from within the group, theirs is a peer based cappella group which functions smoothly on mutual respect and support. The rehearsals are run by the music director while the business aspect is handled by the manager.
The Whiffenpoofs of 2012 are a diverse group. The 14 of them have 13 majors amongst them, ranging from Economics, Cognitive Science, Mathematics, Biology, Music, American Studies, Humanities, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Studies, Theatre Studies, Philosophy, Political Science and Latin American Studies.
Because of the hectic schedules of the rehearsals and the concerts taking up most of their time, the band has not been to school the last semester. Balancing studies and music proved to be difficult for them. However, they said that they will be going back to their studies soon.
“Performing cappella is different and difficult, but one gets used to it,” shares Raphael Shapiro. It takes practice and everyone knows practice makes one perfect. And The Whiffenpoofs are a testimony to that.
Their collection of songs is a mixture of traditional Yale songs, some original compositions, and also hits from the past. Peppering their songs with simple but fun routines, they are truly worth the time you spend to watch them.
The Whiffenpoofs were in Nepal as a part of their summer tour. Now almost two thirds into their tour, the band have performed in some 25 countries.
They kicked off their tour from Iceland and have been to England, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Madagascar, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt in their tour.
Every year, each generation of The Whiffenpoofs gets to sing and travel all over the world, collecting great memories. The batch of 2012 hold that each concert they do is amazing and special for different reasons, some are very, very special indeed.
Recently in Norway, they enjoyed an “incredible concert” where they sang with another music group.
Also, singing for the Prime Minister of Madagascar is quite an amazing experience.
For more information on The Whiffenpoofs, log on to www.whiffenpoofs.com.