WOLFEBORO — The Yale Whiffenpoofs, the nation's oldest and best-known male collegiate a cappella group, is performing at the Kingswood Arts Center on Sunday January 26. The concert, presented by Wolfeboro Friends of Music will take place at 2 p.m. and is sponsored by New England Window and Door - Pella Distributor.
What is a Whiffenpoof and how did a group of college choral guys, including, in 1913, a fellow named Cole Porter,come to use the name?! In 1903 on a frosty January night in New Haven, Connecticut, five of the Yale Glee Club's best singers convened at Mory's Temple Bar to escape the cold. They were warmly welcomed inside, wowed the clientele with their talent and humor, and were invited back again and again. As their fame on campus grew, the quintet began their search for a name. Quintet member Denton 'Goat' Fowler, tickled by a joke featuring a mythical dragonfish named the whiffenpoof, suggested the name to his companions.
Every spring, a group of 14 male Yale juniors is selected to be a Whiffenpoof for the following school year. Getting into the group is considered an exceptionally prestigious accomplishment at Yale. 2012 Whiffenpoof member Brandon Levin shared in Cape Town South Africa's "Daily Maverick": "You need to have completed your third year, be a male, and be able to sing...there is an extensive audition process. You sort of don't try out unless you know you have a shot." Prestigious - and exceptionally rigorous - as most of them will take the year off from classes, getting jobs in New Haven that will allow them to travel to the over 200 worldwide concerts they'll give.
The Whiffs, as they call themselves, have performed for almost every American president since the 1900s, including performances for President Obama at the White House and former Presidents George H. W. Bush, Yale '48, and George W. Bush, Yale '68, whose grandfather Prescott Bush was a Whiffenpoof of 1917. They have performed in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Broadway's Lincoln Center, and the Rose Bowl. They have been featured on television shows such as NBC's The Sing Off, The West Wing, The Today Show, 60 Minutes, Gilmore Girls, Jeopardy!, Saturday Night Live, and on Season 4 finale of the hit television show Glee.
In 2014, the current Whiffs are scheduled for a 12 week world tour which moves from Iceland, UK, and Ireland to Europe to Sub-Saharan Africa, to the Mideast to India and Nepal and Australia and New Zealand. In addition, throughout the 2013-14 concert season, they will travel the continental USA coast to coast.
The Whiffenpoof' srepertoire features a diverse selection of songs, ranging from traditional such as the Irish folksong "Down by the Salley Gardens" to "The Yale Football Fight Song Medley"to original compositions to hits from every decade, "I Only Have Eyes for You" and "Rainbow Connection" to name a few. The ensemble's signature "Whiffenpoof Song," which has been recorded by artists Rudy Vallee, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, and countless others, has closed their concerts for more than one hundred years "as a celebration of brotherhood and tradition."
This is the fourth of eight programs presented by Wolfeboro Friends of Music to people of the greater Lakes Region during its season, which runs from September through May. Tickets are available for $20 at the door; at Black's Paper Store and Avery Insurance in Wolfeboro; or at Innisfree Bookshop in Meredith; by calling (603) 569-2151; or by visiting the website: www.wfriendsofmusic.org. Please note WFOM's special policy: High school students with ID will be admitted free of charge. A child accompanied by an adult ticket purchaser will be admitted free of charge.