Fresh from their appearances on NBC’s surprise hit TV show The Sing-Off, Yale University’s famed a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs, will perform at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara at 7:30pm on Monday, March 7th, their only concert in the Santa Barbara area on their spring tour.
The Whiffenpoofs may be the nation’s oldest collegiate a cappella group, but they are certainly not the only one. A cappella is bigger than ever, and if the number of groups out there doesn’t convince you (there are at least a thousand), the popularity of TV shows like The Sing-Off and Fox’s Golden Globe-winning Glee should. The musical comedy-drama series, which features a cappella covers of hit songs, has been so successful that its two seasons have already put more singles on the Billboard Hot 100 than even the Beatles. A cappella has gone mainstream.
Whiffenpoof Daniel Turcza agrees. “While there have always been a few devoted fans, the genre used to be pretty obscure,” he says. “A cappella’s popularity is definitely new.” He’s not complaining. “When people are really excited to see you and are already familiar with your style of music, it makes you feel like a rock star.”
And while their name doesn’t exactly scream rock star, the Whiffenpoofs’ lifestyle isn’t far off the mark. Though membership in the group is limited to Yale seniors, most of them unenroll from classes and take the year off to focus on singing and touring. The group’s performance schedule is so intense – over 150 concerts a year – that it would be crazy not to.
This year, the Whiffenpoofs will hit New York, Boston, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Orlando, Tampa, Richmond, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, and that’s just major US cities. Over the summer, the Whiffenpoofs take a 3 month world tour to twenty-five countries - everywhere from New Zealand to Kenya, Denmark to India.
And since The Sing-Off, the Whiffenpoofs have shared the stage with stars Ben Folds, Alison Krauss, and Deborah Cox, and sold out 1,000 seat venues. The a cappella craze is treating them well.
Sadly, the Whiffenpoof lifespan is short. Membership lasts one year, and re-auditioning is not permitted. Says Turcza: “It’s an unforgettable experience, but it doesn’t last. None of us imagined singing could take us here, and we’re trying to make the most of it while we still can.”
For details on the March 7th concert, including ticket information, visit whiffenpoofs.com.