You’ve heard the Whiffenpoofs, and if you live right today, you get to hear them again.
The Yale a cappella group is performing today in Beaver Creek and tonight at the Eagle River Presbyterian Church.
They’re one of the world’s most highly regarded a cappella groups.
The Whiffenpoofs were founded in 1909, so they have a long history of excellent arrangements, said Nathaniel Dolquist, the group’s business manager. Besides all the traditional material, one of their guys did an arrangement of Tina Turner’s, “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” There’s “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and Manhattan Transfer’s “Operator.”
Every show ends with The Whiffenpoof Song, because that’s the way the group ended its first performance in 1909. If you’ve never heard it, your cultural education is incomplete. It’s been recorded by Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong and dozens of others.
A cappella music is specifically group, or solo, singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way.
To be a Whiffenpoof
They choose 14 new guys every year. They begin rehearsing in August and start performing in September.
They get no financial aid or assistance from Yale; they do it all on their own.
It’s an outstanding lesson in the real world of the music business. They elect a business manager, who chooses people to run regional tours.
Nathaniel Dolquist is from Colorado so he got Colorado and Kansas.
They flew into Denver last week, then headed to Kansas City where they performed around that area.
We caught up with them in the Kansas City airport, where they were boarding a plane to head to Denver. They perform Tuesday afternoon in Beaver Creek, then at the Eagle River Presbyterian Church Tuesday night. On Wednesday they ski in Beaver Creek.
If any of them get hurt, they have to heal in time for their big concerts at the University of Denver Friday and Saturday.
All 14 of this year’s Whiffenpoofs are taking the year off from school because they’re on the road so much. Later this spring they hit Texas, Florida, Brazil and Peru. It’s only the second time that has happened in Whiffenpoof history, Dolquist said.
This summer they hit the road for a world tour.
They enjoy performing and they enjoy each other, but the road can get long.
“I’m enjoying the time off, but it’s going very fast,” Dolquist said.
Dolquist is the only Thunder Ridge High School student to be accepted to Yale. Mostly, he figured that, in the immortal words of the great Ernie Banks, “It’s better to have swung and missed than never to have swung at all.”
He started applying to Ivy League schools, with Yale at the top of his list because it has the Ivy League’s strongest undergrad music and theater programs.
When he was accepted to Yale, he stopped applying to colleges, as soon as he asked his mom if he could go there and she said, “Certainly!” or words to that effect.
“I worked hard in high school, but it’s still a long shot,” Dolquist said.
The Whiffenpoofs are stopping by Thunder Ridge this week to give a choir seminar.
About the Whiffenpoofs
Every year, 14 senior Yale men are selected to be in the Whiffenpoofs, the world’s oldest and best-known collegiate a cappella group. Founded in 1909, the “Whiffs” began as a senior quartet that met for weekly concerts at Mory’s Temple Bar, the famous Yale tavern.
That frigid January night in New Haven, Conn., five of the Yale Glee Club’s best singers convened at Mory’s Temple Bar. Louis Linder, the tavern’s barkeep and a music aficionado, welcomed them in, beginning a tradition that continues to this day.
Of those original five singers, four were members of the Glee Club’s prestigious Varsity Quartet, a group that sang together regularly at various alumni events.
Denton ‘Goat’ Fowler, amused by a joke featuring a mythical dragonfish named the Whiffenpoof, suggested the name to his companions, who found the name an apt reflection of the atmosphere of levity that accompanied the group’s gatherings. The word quickly caught on with the group’s admirers, and the name stuck.