The Whiffenpoofs

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The Yale Whiffenpoofs
Whiffenpoof Logo2.jpg
Background information
Genresa cappella
Years active1909–present
Websitehttp://www.whiffenpoofs.com
 
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The Yale Whiffenpoofs
Whiffenpoof Logo2.jpg
Background information
Genresa cappella
Years active1909–present
Websitehttp://www.whiffenpoofs.com
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A recording of the 2006 Whiffenpoofs singing Yale's unofficial alma mater

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The Yale Whiffenpoofs, an undergraduate musical group at Yale University, is the oldest collegiate a cappella group in the United States. Established in 1909 and best known for "The Whiffenpoof Song",[1] the group comprises senior men who compete in the spring of their junior year for 14 spots.[2] The Whiffs' best-known alumnus may be Cole Porter, who sang in the 1913 lineup; the group often performs Porter songs in tribute.

The Whiffenpoofs have performed for generations at a number of venues, including Lincoln Center, the White House, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, Oakland Coliseum, Carnegie Hall and the Rose Bowl. The group has appeared on such television shows as Jeopardy!, The Today Show, Saturday Night Live, 60 Minutes, Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, and Glee. In December 2010, the group appeared on NBC's a cappella competition The Sing-Off; they were eliminated fourth, on the second show.

During the school year, the Whiffenpoofs perform on Monday nights at Mory's, known more formally as "Mory's Temple Bar," circulating from room to room.[3] Beginning in 2010, the group sings on Wednesdays at New Haven's Union League Café.

The Whiffenpoofs travel extensively during the school year and take a three-month world tour during the summer. At one time, most members were full-time students, but today many members take all or part of the year off and are effectively full-time professional Whiffenpoofs.[citation needed] The group's business manager and musical director, known in Whiff tradition respectively as the "Popocatepetl" and "Pitchpipe,"[2] are chosen by members of the previous year's group. An alumni organization maintains close ties with the group.

The word whiffenpoof originated in the 1908 opera Little Nemo by Victor Herbert, based on the comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay.

"The Whiffenpoof Song"[edit]

Whiffenpoofs of 1912 (dressed in tutus) posing with Louie Linder (in tophat), 1912

"The Whiffenpoof Song," the group's traditional closing number, was published in sheet music form in 1909. It became a hit for Rudy Vallee in 1927 and later in 1947 for Bing Crosby. It has also been recorded by Elvis Presley, Count Basie, Perry Como, the Statler Brothers, and countless others.

Mory's refers to Mory's Temple Bar and Louis to a former owner of Mory's, Louis Linder. The chorus is derived from the poem "Gentlemen Rankers" by Rudyard Kipling, which was set to music by Guy H. Scull (Harvard 1898) and adapted with lyrics by Meade Minnigerode (Yale 1910) & George S. Pomeroy (Yale 1910).[1][4]

The chorus was used in the 1949 movie 12 O'Clock High with Gregory Peck; it can be heard in the background after the unit receives its first unit commendation.

It was used in the 1952 movie Monkey Business. When the tune comes on the radio, Cary Grant starts singing it to Marilyn Monroe, who declares it "a silly song". Later Ginger Rogers sings it to Grant and describes it as "our song". And later still, Grant sings it to Rogers when he is locked out of the hotel room.

The intro and a parody of the first verse are sung by Betty Grable during the graduation scene in How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955).

The melody is the opening theme of the 1975 television series Baa Baa Black Sheep, a fictionalization of the World War II wartime exploits of the United States Marine Corps Marine Fighter Squadron No. 214, forerunner of the Corps's present-day VMA-214 "Black Sheep" Squadron. One of the squadron's real-life members, Paul "Moon" Mullen, adapted "The Whiffenpoof Song" for the squadron's use.[citation needed]

The Whiffenpoofs can be heard singing it in the 2006 movie The Good Shepherd, in the scene where Matt Damon's son tells him he wants to join the CIA.

In the play Serenading Louie by Lanford Wilson, performed at the Donmar Warehouse in London in 2010, the song is sung by the cast and by Bing Crosby.

The Billy Bragg song, "Island of No Return" featured on the Brewing Up With Billy Bragg album features the lyrics, "I wish Kipling and the Captain were here, to record our pursuits for posterity. Me and the corporal out on a spree, damned from here to eternity."

Variations[edit]

Musical satirist Tom Lehrer spoofed "The Whiffenpoof Song" as part of his song "Bright College Days." Lehrer, an instructor at Yale's traditional rival Harvard University, sings of "glasses raised on high" (at which point he removes his eyeglasses and holds them up) and of drinking a toast "to those we love the best," to rhyme with "we'll pass [which may mean 'pass the final exams' or 'die'] and be forgotten with the rest." He also sings "to the tables down at Mory's, wherever that may be...," evoking a laugh from the Harvard auditorium crowd at the live recording.

In 1973, the Harvard Krokodiloes debuted a spoof, "The Krokenpoof Song," with Harvard-specific lyrics, tongue-in-cheek references, bawdy variations involving references to Whiffenpoofs and sheep, rhymes such as "We'll drink lemonade Drambuie" in place of "We will serenade our Louis," and ending with "Baa, baa, humbug!"

Mad produced parody lyrics of it that were reprinted in the 1973 book The Mad Sampler. Titled "The Hundred-Proofs Song", it suggested that rich students forgot about their studies and resorted to getting drunk at the bar, "...earning the grades we deserve, we know; - F - F - F!"

Emblem[edit]

The group adopted the Whiffenpoof emblem in 1912. Depicting a bird with mint leaves for wings, a horse’s neck, and a swizzle stick for a perch, it was designed by a cartoonist from campus humor magazine The Yale Record. [5]

Cultural references[edit]

Notable members[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Rev. James M. Howard, Yale Class of 1909, "An Authentic Account of the Founding of the Whiffenpoofs".
  2. ^ a b Brozan, Nancy, "Whiffenpoofs: 'Gentlemen songsters' still," Special to the New York Times. New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Apr 20, 1987. pg. C.12. ISSN: 03624331. ProQuest document ID: 956358391.
  3. ^ Watson, Ben "Music made in England: Mondays at Mory's," Yankee. Dublin: Jul/Aug 2001.Vol.65, Iss. 6; pg. 65. Source type: Periodical. ISSN: 00440191. ProQuest document ID: 74227092.
  4. ^ "Time Magazine, August 2, 1937, "Whiffenpoof Contest".
  5. ^ http://www.whiffalumni.com/whiffs/reunionmaterials/Reunion%20Program.pdf
  6. ^ Mel Brooks's "Young Frankenstein" Sheet Music collection
  7. ^ "Let the Games Begin"
  8. ^ Doherty, Donna (25 January 2009). "Baa, baa, baa, at 100 Whiffenpoofs sound just as good as ever". New Haven Register. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  9. ^ Rapkin, Mickey (23 March 2008). "Perfect Tone, in a Minor Key". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 

External links[edit]