They’ve appeared in hit TV show Glee, sung for George Bush and now they’re coming to town – the all-male, acapella singing group the Whiffenpoofs of Yale University perform at the Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa on July 23.
The ‘Whiffs,’ perhaps the best-known and certainly the oldest collegiate acapella group in the US, were founded in 1909.
The lineup, which changes annually, comprises 14 men from senior year, and undoubtedly its most famous member was Cole Porter who sang in the group in 1913.
Traditionally, the Whiffenpoofs embark on a world tour every summer, and Siem Reap is a destination they’ve played several times. Whiffenpoofs of 2013 member Alex Caron tells Insider why Temple Town had to make the list.
“We keep coming back because Siem Reap is such a gorgeous and unique city with a bunch of amazing people who support us by coming to our concert,” he says. “The Whiffenpoofs have performed at the Victoria for the past few years, and each year the reception has been so wonderful that we've decided to come back again this July.
“Some of my friends who came to Siem Reap with the Whiffenpoofs in 2011 and 2012 have said that it was their favorite stop on the entire world tour. They loved visiting the temples, biking around the city, and of course meeting all the people who came to the concert.”
Caron has a particular personal affinity with Siem Reap, having visited pre-Whiffs in 2011 to run a theatre workshop with the NGO, PDI-Cambodia, in villages outside of Siem Reap. The workshop culminated with a “raw, passionate and hilarious” performance at Hotel 1961, and Caron says he is very much looking forward to returning.
“I'm excited to come back with the group this year because the months I spent in Siem Reap two years ago was a very important time in my life,” he says. “I can’t wait to share this amazing place and all the people who live here with the other group members.
“I'm personally excited to come back because I miss this city. I miss the people who live here and the smells and the way it floods in the summer and the food and everything about it. I'm probably most excited about taking the group to one of the evening outdoor Jazzercise classes, which I attended regularly in the summer of 2011.”
As for the repertoire on July 23, Caron says there will be something for everyone. Typically, the group performs a mixture of traditional Yale songs and classic Broadway numbers like Cole Porter’s Too Darn Hot, combined with more contemporary tunes such as Mika’s 2007 hit, Grace Kelly.
“We try to find a balance of old and new and we select songs that cross over many genres so that every audience member leaves having recognized something, but also having heard something new that they like,” says Caron. “We'll perform a few sets over the course of the evening, and each time we sing we'll be performing several songs. We'll also have plenty of time to mingle with the audience over dinner and drinks, so it should be a pretty festive evening.”
The 2013 tour started on May 23, and will have taken in 26 different countries over 87 days.
And as for why a white-gloved, show-tune-singing group of young men has become so enormously popular, Caron puts it down to tradition and staying power.
He says that 104 years of performing and touring have won the group a pretty impressive international following. Following a performance in Geneva, a woman approached him and said her father was in the Whiffenpoofs and used to sing The Whiffenpoof Song to her every night when she was growing up. Now she sings the song every night to her kids.
Caron adds, “I think appearing on shows like Glee or The Sing Off certainly helps, but I think the Whiffenpoofs win a place in our audience's hearts because it makes them feel like they are a part of something timeless and global.”
Tickets for the performance on July 23 cost $26 and include a welcome cocktail at 7pm followed by a barbecue buffet dinner.