Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu:

Fourteen fresh graduates from Yale University stand in a semi-circle on the stage in black tuxedos complete with white gloves and tailcoats. It is like a scene from a Broadway show. But that isn’t why the audience is listening spellbound. These are the Yale Whiffenpoofs, the world’s oldest a capella group. With fluid hand movements, the conductor gives them the time and the voices flow in perfect harmony. June 29 marked their fourth performance at Hotel Yak and Yeti. Like an organ, they meet all the scale requirements. Together, with teamwork, they make up a whole orchestra. Each note is well rounded and they rise and fall with amazing precision. They sing “Aj, Lucka, Lucka Siroka”, “Daddy is a Yale Man”, “The Girl From Ipanema”, “Bye Bye Blackbird”, “I’ll be seeing you”, “Time after Time” and many more. Their rendition of “Midnight Train to Georgia” was endearing with the Whiffenpoofs doing a little dance for accompaniment. When they bow after their anthem “The Whiffenpoofs Song”, the applause is unceasing until the young men return to the stage for an encore.

The Whiffenpoofs Song has quite a history. Written by two of the founding members, it has been popularised by the likes of Rudy Vallee, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and Cole Porter. The group has performed before the Dalai La-ma, Mother Teresa, US Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton. The Whiffenpoofs are always singing even when they take a break. “You should see us on the bus trips,” laughs Al Powers, who sings baritone. “We are always singing and creating harmony off the top of our head.” Their stage performances are polished to a perfect finish. “We want the audience to leave happy after having heard us,” says Daniel Shin, tour manager and part of the singing troupe. “All our songs are written and arranged for men’s voices that is why we don’t have female singers.” Every year, 14 senior Yale men are selected to be a part of the Whiffenpoofs. Founded in 1909, the group began as a quintet that met for weekly concerts at Mory’s Temple Bar, a renowned Yale tavern and club. They have bass, baritone, tenor two and one. Every year, their performance is choreographed again. The Whiffenpoofs are raisng awareness for children’s literacy. They are on a world tour that included China, Japan, Thailand, South Africa, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Russia, Italy, Spain and Ireland. Their CD ‘Subtly Different’ is available on the Net.