The Whiffs Return

Yale's famed a cappella group to perform a mini-concert at the school
Dick Gregory and students (top), Joshua Harper and students (bottom)
Dick Gregory and students (top), Joshua Harper and students (bottom)

One of the country’s top a cappella groups will serenade Williston Northampton School students and faculty as part of a special all-school assembly on Monday, February 2.

The Yale Whiffenpoofs, a group with ties to Williston that date back to the 1950s, will perform a variety of old standards and pop songs.

Choral Director Joshua Harper, who helped arrange the visit, said that hosting the “Whiffs,” as they’re commonly known, will be a learning experience for students.

“I am really hoping that the entire student body hears how much fun it is to sing with a group, especially an a cappella group in college,” he wrote an an email. “I also want our current singers to see and hear what a lot of hard work and dedication can sound like.”

Mr. Harper noted that the Whiffs, who come from a variety of backgrounds, take a year off of Yale to travel around the world with the group before returning to New Haven for their senior year.

Mr. Harper also pointed to the long Williston connection to the Whiffs.  Before his legendary 43-year run as a music teacher, advisor, and dorm parent at Williston, Richard “Dick” Gregory served as pitch pipe for the ’56 Whiffenpoofs.

In a 2008 interview with Pitch Perfect, Mr. Gregory said he had traveled around the country with the Whiffs as a graduate student (he was also Yale Class of 1954) and sang with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood.

“The Whiffs of ‘56 still sing together—all 12 of us,” he said then. We still sing pretty well for guys in our 70s. But by now the fun is more important than the singing.”

Mr. Gregory, who founded the Caterwaulers and Widdigers, noted then that having the Whiffs perform at Williston when he was a teacher there was always “an ego trip.”

Editor’s note: Don’t miss the Yale Whiffenpoofs at the annual Silver Chord Bowl at Smith College, where they’ll also be performing this Sunday at 2 p.m.

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