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Ivy Leaguers sing around the globe

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — What is probably the oldest and most famous a cappella collegiate choir will raise its voices in New Mexico this week.

The name of the choir? The Whiffenpoofs – all 14 are senior men at Yale University.

The choir has a growing collection of songs.

If you go
WHAT: The Whiffenpoofs
WHEN and WHERE: 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, at United Church of Santa Fe, 1804 Arroyo Chamiso, Santa Fe; and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10, at the Simms Performing Arts Center, Albuquerque Academy, 6400 Wyoming NE
HOW MUCH: Tickets for the Santa Fe concert are $20 general public in advance at or at the door. Tickets for the Albuquerque concert are $20 general public, $10 students and children in advance at or at the door

“The repertoire is enormous,” said Mitchel Kawash, a high tenor in the choir and the 2011-12 winter tour manager, in a phone interview.


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“Members have been arranging and archiving music for the group from the beginning. Each year our music director decides what he wants to learn from the old music, then he selects a portion of that archive and we also learn new music throughout the year,” Kawash said.

Its beginnings date to 1909, when five members of the Yale Glee Club got together at Mory’s Temple Bar, a Yale hangout.

The ensemble’s repertoire is varied, ranging from gospel, such as the Manhattan Transfer’s version of “Operator,” to jazz and rock. The concerts may also include arrangements of “The Rainbow Connection” that Kermit the Frog has sung and Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Gotta Get You Into My Life.”

“A favorite of the group is (an adaptation of) a William Butler Yeats poem, ‘Down by the Salley Gardens.’ It starts out with a soloist and has gentle, major high chords,” Kawash said.

The ensemble’s membership changes every year; outgoing senior members choose singers from among incoming seniors. Their year as singers is considered a leave of absence from school.

The Whiffenpoofs have a hectic schedule, with domestic and international tours throughout the year.

“One of the biggest draws, and a trademark of The Whiffenpoofs, is that we do a world tour in the summer. It starts in May. We go to Europe and to the Middle East and Africa, Asia and Australia. We come back three months later,” Kawash said.

The ensemble’s fame grew exponentially when it performed in the 2010 season of the reality TV show “The Sing-Off.”

“Through the show we were introduced to a whole new generation of the American public,” Kawash said. ” ‘The Sing-Off’ also forced the group to update bits of its repertoire. We added some songs for younger audiences.”