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January 30, 2009

Yale group celebrates 100th anniversary

Associated Press:

The Yale students who met that winter night 100 years ago in Mory's bar were just looking for a warm place to sing, but they wound up popularizing a new genre of American music on college campuses. The Wiffenpoofs, as they called themselves after a musical comedy, became famous for a song that made military officers serving in World War II long for home. The group would go on to perform for presidents and royalty, the Dali Lama and Mother Teresa, at the World Series in 1989 and for TV shows such as "Gilmore Girls" and "The West Wing."

They were the first collegiate a cappella group in the United States, a genre that involved singing popular songs in smaller, student-directed groups rather than choral groups that usually sang classical or religious music and are directed by a professor or conductor. Now there are more than 1,500 such groups who sing without instruments at colleges around the country.

"It's one of the biggest extracurricular activities to do in college today all over the country. And it started 100 years ago this month at Yale," said Barry McMurtrey, a Whiffenpoof in 1988 who is helping to organize a centennial celebration. "The Whiffs started out as a lark, a hobby for Yalies."

The Whiffenpoofs are as famous as ever as they celebrate their 100th anniversary, starting with a concert Jan. 31 hosted by John Hodgman of "The Daily Show" and culminating with a giant alumni reunion in October. Alumni include actor Ron Livingston, who starred in "Sex in the City" and the movie "Office Space," James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Prescott Bush Jr., the uncle of former President's George W. Bush, and Prescott Bush Sr., a senator and grandfather of the former president. "He just absolutely loved it," said Elizabeth Bush, wife of Prescott Bush Jr., who spoke for her ill husband. "It was such a wonderful group. They couldn't resist singing wherever they were." Read more.

Posted by acapnews at January 30, 2009 9:13 PM


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