June 6, 2013  •  by Jane Carter

SPOTLIGHT: The Whiffenpoofs

Founded in 1909, the Whiffenpoofs are the world’s oldest and best-known collegiate a capella group. Every year, 14 male senior Yale students are selected to be a part of this celebrated tradition at Yale. The Glee Club has also recently finished recording their  album entitled “Flight of The Penguins” and has been on tour across the United States since last October. Now, the group is preparing to bring their tour abroad.   Before the Whiffenpoofs take off for their international tour, Ticketbud had the chance to and talk with Max Henke who is a Yale senior and one of three that provides bass vocals for The Whiffenpoofs. Ticketbud: Tell us a little more about the Whiffenpoofs! Where did such a unique name come from? Max Henke: The Whiffenpoofs are America’s (and the world’s) oldest collegiate a cappella singing group. We were founded in 1909 by four senior Yale men who frequented Mory’s Temple Bar in New Haven, Connecticut after their Glee Club rehearsals on Monday evenings. The bartender at Mory’s, Louie Linder, loved to hear them sing quartets, and they immortalized him in “The Whiffenpoof Song,” which we sing at the end of every concert. It is also our alumni song, and we invite any and all Whiffenpoof alumni to stand and sing the song with us. The name “Whiffenpoof” is a relic of a different era: in the early 20th century, there was a popular comic strip called “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” which was developed into an operetta. One of the four founding members of the Whiffenpoofs was at this operetta when he watched one of the actors ad-lib a line about a mythical dragonfish, calling it a “Whiffenpoof.” The silly-sounding word (and its representation as a dragonfish) so delighted that founding member that he told the other three about it and they adopted it as their title. We’ve been called “The Whiffenpoofs” ever since. Original-Whiffs-cropped

TB: In the past, the Whiffenpoofs have been invited to be on television programs such as SNL, The West Wing, and Jeopardy!, and recently on Glee as well. How did these opportunities come about?

MH: Because we are all seniors, the group is an entirely new group of 14 undergraduate men at Yale every year. As awhiffenpoofs-of-yale-sing-off result, the story behind how we find our way onto any television appearance is different for each show! In the case of Glee, the other Whiffs and I always thought it would be fun to find our way onto a show dedicated to a cappella, and we were able to email one of the head producers at Glee asking if they would consider having us on in a cameo appearance. The producer passed our suggestion along to the writers, and they decided it would be fun to have us sing as a competitor at the regionals competition on the show! The best part about the appearance is that they decided to use our real recording of “The Rainbow Connection” instead of a different track, so what you hear on the show is actually our voices.

TB: Recently, the Whiffenpoofs have been playing around the United States and have just finished their album titled, “Flight of the Penguins”. Now, you guys are gearing up to go overseas. What has the US tour been like? What are you most looking forward to on your trip abroad? MH: It’s been a busy year! We have toured California, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Florida, Washington, D.C., Colorado, Louisiana, Tennessee, and the Northeast. We make it a habit to try to see the hometowns of all of our membership so that we get a chance to perform for their friends and families, but we also have a few regular annual tour stops (like Denver, CO) where we have longstanding performance opportunities. As for our world tour, I imagine if you asked the 14 Whiffenpoofs which stop they were most excited for, you would get 14 different answers! I am personally thrilled to see Madagascar for the first time. I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for lemurs! Screen-Shot-2013-01-16-at-12.06.20-PM-660x288 TB: The Whiffenpoofs have been hosting events in different cities around the country. What is it like to organize these events and what “insider” tips do you have for our organizers who put together events in different locations? MH: It’s certainly a lot of work finding venues and promoting concerts, and we have had some huge successes this year in the filed of public performances. The most important part of organizing concerts across the country with a traveling group like the Whiffenpoofs is to make sure there are always feet on the ground in the location that we’re visiting in the form of a helpful contact who lives there. Our most successful concerts were ones where we had the help of a friend or two who knew some pieces local information that we, as Easterners, would not have thought to pursue as advertisement. When you’re promoting a big event, one can never be too shy in getting your name out to as many different venues as possible through frequent and dedicated emailing. TB: Was ticket cost a big factor when considering ticket sales? What benefits have you found from using an online, flat rate ticketing company like Ticketbud? MH: The most important thing to us is that tiny fees are not passed along to the audiences as they purchase tickets! The last thing we want is for an audience member to decide not to purchase a ticket in advance because they can avoid a fee by purchasing at the door. We want attending Whiffenpoof concerts to be as simple and easy as possible, and Ticketbud’s flat fee system perfectly matches that goal. It has saved us and the audience money to avoid those per-ticket fees.   Well, thats’ all we have for you today. We would like to thank Max Henke and the rest of the Whiffenpoofs for taking time out of their busy schedule to talk with us. If you happen to be in Geneva, Switzerland on June 12th, be sure to buy a ticket to see this group perform. Here at Ticketbud, we wish the Whiffenpoofs the very best on their international tour!    ]]]]> ]]>