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The whiff's return in triumph


This year’s Whiffenpoofs’ line-up features fourteen of the best male singers from Yale’s senior class. Photograph: supplied

The ‘Whiffs’ are back in Siem Reap for the third time. They’re performing at the Victoria Angkor Resort hotel on Monday evening, where their performances have become an anticipated favorite, and one must ponder the question of what is this odd relationship all about.

The Whiffs are of course the quirkily-named Whiffenppofs, the oldest collegiate a cappella group in the US. The group is an ultra-American tradition that dates back over a hundred years, having been formed in 1909, and was – and continues to be – spawned at that core American institution, Yale.

So why does a group like this successfully and repeatedly perform in Siem Reap? Is Siem Reap besotted with the Whiff’s,  or are the Whiffs besotted with Siem Reap?

Apparently, it’s a little of both. The group is certainly a draw card at Victoria, hence the return performances. And David Martinez, the Whiff’s world tour manager focusing on Africa and Asia, says Siem Reap is a draw card for the group.

He tells Insider, “The stop in Siem Reap has actually become a highlight of our world tour over the last few years. Our relationship with the Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa has remained strong, and the wonderful accommodations are a great launching point.

“The opportunity to visit Angkor Archaeological Park is one that we can't imagine giving up, and the food in Siem Reap has actually become a legendary part of the stop among successive classes of Whiffs as well.”

The Whiffs are here as part of another of its traditions, a world tour. Each year, fourteen of the best male singers in Yale's senior class are chosen to be members of the Whiffenpoofs, and then each May the singers and their entourage embark on a three-month international tour. Past tours have visited Mexico, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, India, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, and of course  Cambodia – three times.

The group also performs in the US in concert and on special occasions, and has made TV appearances on Saturday Night Live, The West Wing and The Sing Off.

Each year the group supports and donates to a cause, and this year it’s performed for the benefit of the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation, dedicated to eliminating pediatric AIDS, and The Trevor Project, America’s leading provider of crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.

The group’s repertoire is reasonably diverse, containing traditional Yale songs, American golden-oldies,  and a spattering of relatively recent material including The Drifter’s On Broadway, Paul Simon’s The Boxer,  and Stevie  Wonder’s You are the Sunshine of My Life.  No Sex Pistols but. And yes, they do sing When the Saints go Marchin’ In.

The Whiffenpoofs perform on Monday August 6 at the Victoria Hotel. Welcome cocktails from 7-8pm. BBQ buffet dinner and performance, only $26 per person, taxes not included. Be there or be deprived.



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