Whiffenpoofs travel to Florida amid pandemic

Courtesy of Sadé Elizabeth

On Feb. 8, the Whiffenpoofs — Yale’s oldest and most well-known a cappella group — left New Haven for Florida.

In a typical year, the Whiffenpoofs conduct upwards of 200 concerts in members’ hometowns and around the world. But while the group is not holding live performances this year, the Whiffenpoofs plan to rehearse, hold virtual performances and record music in Florida. Their trip this month is an outlier during the pandemic, since all other campus a cappella groups continue to refrain from traveling or rehearsing in person, in accordance with the Yale Singing Group Council’s guidelines. 

The group will remain in Florida until Feb. 27, when they plan on returning to New Haven.

“The group is in Florida to focus on recording our album, performing virtually and conducting our auditions,” Whiffenpoofs Business Manager Tavi Wolfwood ’21+1 wrote in an email to the News. “We are not performing live in-person.”

Wolfwood said members are isolating themselves in their rental home in Florida for the duration of their stay and ordering groceries to their doorstep. Wolfwood added that the group is following all federal guidelines for quarantine and isolation, by adhering to both Connecticut and Florida state guidelines.

Prior to their departure, all group members quarantined in New Haven. The News independently verified that all 14 current Whiffenpoofs members received three negative PCR tests for COVID-19 in the week before they departed. In a social media post, members mentioned that they traveled to Florida by car, stayed in an Airbnb and ordered all their food. Members plan to quarantine upon their return to New Haven as well.

Last year, the Yale Singing Group Council — the umbrella organization for a cappella groups on campus — released an announcement requiring virtual rehearsals for a cappella groups. In accordance with this requirement, other on-campus a cappella groups including Yale’s all-senior Whim n’ Rhythm, which often collaborates with the Whiffenpoofs, are not traveling or rehearsing in person this semester.

“Jam performances, even those occurring in the spring, will likely need to be reimagined to happen virtually,” their announcement reads. “If in-person social gatherings among groups are permitted, they will be limited in attendance and singing will not be allowed.”

Even though the Whiffenpoofs fall under the SGC, the council’s co-chairs, Cosette Davis ’21, Zach Taylor ’21+1 and Aidan O’Connor ’21, wrote to the News noting the SGC is “principally concerned with non-senior singing groups that, unlike the Whiffs, fall under YCDO jurisdiction as registered student organizations.”

Since the Whiffenpoofs elected to take a leave of absence to participate fully in the ensemble this year, they need not adhere to student travel regulations set by the Yale College Dean’s Office. 

Still, the Whiffs’ travel itinerary to Florida — one of the states with the highest rate of COVID-19 infections  — is a departure from the decisions undertaken by the rest of the a cappella community.

Yale’s other all-senior a cappella group, Whim ’n Rhythm, is singing remotely without any in-person component to ensure that no action taken by Whim places any individual at risk, members said in a statement to the News.

“We have had extensive conversations with other Yale singing groups about how we can continue to make music together in compliance with the YCDO guidelines for singing groups, which advise against in-person practices and performances,” Whim ’n Rhythm members wrote in a joint statement to the News, adding that their primary focus has been “protecting and preserving the health of ourselves and those in the communities we call home.” 

The Whiffenpoofs were founded in 1909.

Emily Tian | emily.tian@yale.edu

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