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Yale’s finest hit high notes in Siem Reap

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Members of the Whiffenpoofs pose in Siem Reap this week. Photo by: ADRIAN TUCCI

FOURTEEN American college singers known as the Whiffenpoofs from Yale University sang to an adoring crowd at a Siem Reap hotel this week.

Maintaining a three-month performance schedule that spans the globe, the group performs during their summer break from university.

Engaging the audience on Monday night at the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa with a diverse repertoire that contained everything from jazz ballads to contemporary pop hits and the famous Whiffenpoof song, the group again managed to delight audiences from around the world.

First tenor Andrew Maillet, 21, from Charlottesville, Virginia, said: “It’s really cool to go around the world and convey American university tradition, especially since we were able to do music workshops with students in Thailand. It’s an honour to be part of Yale history.”

The resort staff were happy to be hosting the group, who have returned for their second year. “It is wonderful to have them here, they are a talented group of boys, and are very friendly to the staff. We would love to have them back next year” said Sabrina Bertrand, the 30-year-old sales and marketing manager.

The group gave three performances throughout the evening, with the first performance held in the tranquil surrounds of the pool area proving to be most popular.

John Langford, a 52-year-old travelling photographer from Texas, USA, said: “I’ve been wanting to see these guys for 30 years, and to stumble across them here in this country and in these luxurious surroundings is unbelievable. It’s a beautiful spot and the boys exceeded my expectations. They’re great,” he said.

Every year since 1909, the current Whiffenpoof members have chosen their 14 successors through a tough audition process. “Singing is a big deal at Yale, so every year the selection process to get into the Whiffenpoofs is a tough one. There are usually 40 or 50 people auditioning for the 14 spots,” singer Maillet said.

To be a member of the Yale Whiffenpoofs, hopeful singers must audition solo in front of the other 14 choir members.

When asked about their quirky name, Maillet said: “We know it’s a strange name, but the history of the name is important, and it’s also our brand. When we were performing in New Zealand, the locals thought the name was hilarious as ‘poof’ has homosexual connotations.”

The name comes from founding member Denton ‘Goat’ Fowler, who was taken by a joke that featured a mythical dragon-fish named the whiffenpoof, and so suggested the name to his companions.

The name stuck and the Whiffenpoofs were born.

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