The Whiffenpoofs are coming

The Whiffenpoofs are coming
Image: The Whiffenpoofs. Image: supplied

The famed Yale a capella group, The Whiffenpoofs, are finally landing in Sydney after having been thwarted by the pandemic on their last attempt to tour here.

While in Sydney they will be appearing at the Qtopia Loading Dock, the Opera House, NSW Parliament House and and at various venues in the Southern Highlands.

In his first role as a co-tour manager, former state parliamentarian, Michael Yabsley will have the job of chaperoning the group while they are here and is particularly looking forward to the performance in the new Qtopia Loading Dock space at their headquarters in Darlinghurst.

The Whiffenpoofs. Image: supplied

“The Loading Dock, until a short time ago, was literally the loading dock at the Darlinghurst Police station, and then it was handed over to Qtopia,” Michael Yabsley, co-promoter said.

“It seats around 60 people and is a great addition to the bespoke performance spaces in Sydney.”

The Whiffenpoofs are billed as the world’s oldest collegiate a capella group, having formed in Mory’s Temple Bar next to Yale in 1909, and is still where they perform every Monday night when they are at college.

The tradition is kept going as each year 12 performers noted for their harmonies and flair are chosen from a hotly contested field across Yale.

The Whiffenpoofs. Image: Facebook

“The twelve performers are all taking a gap year as undergraduates and they spend the year as Whiffenpoofs,” Yabsley said.

“There is no coming back for a second year and at the end of the first they have a handoff to the new Whiffenpoofs after they have done their world tour.”

Each year the Whiffenpoofs perform around 200 concerts across the Americas, Europe and now Australia.

“They perform right across the spectrum of performance spaces around the world and they pride themselves in that they will go from a dingy school hall in a country town to the Lincoln Centre the next day” Yabsley said.

Each concert finishes with a rendition of the famous Whiffenpoof Song, a nostalgic romp through the works of Rudyard Kipling that has been covered by artists including Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong and Rudy Vallee.

Past alumni include Cole Porter, Jonathan Coulton (JoCo), Jean-Christophe Beck, and Charles Kullman.

It is only in recent years that women have been admitted to the Whiffenpoofs and this tour will feature two female tenors.

Expect songs such as “Rainbow Connection”, “Time After Time” and  “A Midnight Train to Georgia”.

In popular culture, the Whiffenpoofs have been referenced in Bob, Bing and Dorothy’s Road to Bali, Monkey Business, The Simpsons, The Two Ronnies, Gilmore Girls and Glee.

No self respecting undergraduate group can do without an emblem, and in 1912 the Whiffenpoofs adopted a suitably splendid design featuring a heraldic wyvern with mint leaves for wings, a horse’s neck perched on a swizzle stick.

As to the origins of the name Whiffenpoof, it could be from a musical comedy called Little Nemo where it refers to a fantastical fish, or it may be just a nonsense name, but however it originated it is guaranteed to be remembered.

“The Whiffs are back,” Yabsley said.

June 21, 5:30pm
Loading Dock Theatre, Qtopia, 301 Forbes St, Darlinghurst

June 22, 10am
The Barn, Thenford Lodge, 136 Old Argyle Rd, Exeter

June 22, 2:30pm
The Morning Room, Retford Park, 1325 Old South Rd Bowral

June 23, 2:30pm
Utzon Room, Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Guest of Honour, Ita Buttrose AC OBE

June 24, 10:45am
Jubilee Room, Parliament House, Macquarie St, Sydney
Guests of Honour, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of NSW and Mr Dennis Wilson

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