In lieu of Mory’s, Union League hosts the Whiffs

The Union League Café, New Haven’s upscale French restaurant, is playing host to one of Yale’s most treasured traditions: the Whiffenpoofs’ weekly Monday performance.

The all-male senior a cappella group has been singing Monday evenings at Mory’s Temple Bar since they were founded one hundred years ago. Now, with Mory’s closed due to financial difficulties, the Whiffs have been forced to find a new venue. For now, as the group waits to see if Mory’s will revive itself, Union League will serve as the weekly spot, though Whiffs say it still is not their true home.

No caption.
Eva Galvan
No caption.

James Warlick ’10, the group’s business manager, said they considered several clubs and restaurants in their search for a new home. The Graduate Club, the Quinnipiac Club, and the Study were all on the list.

The Whiffs settled on Union League after Warlick received a call from Jonathan Bush ’53, uncle of former President George W. Bush ’68. Jonathan Bush, who lives and works in the New Haven area, is a patron of Union League, and he told Warlick it would serve as a good temporary replacement for Mory’s.

Although Union League has adopted some of the Whiffs’ traditions, allowing them to bring the legendary “Mory’s Cup” when they come sing, the restaurant does not feel like “home” the way that Mory’s did, Elliot Watts ’09, a current Whiff, said.

While several Whiffs said they were impressed with the Union League’s food and service after their first night of singing there on Feb. 16, the general feeling in the group was less positive after their second performance Monday night, Watts said.

“We were relegated to the back room, the doors were shut, and we were not performing for the whole audience,” he said.

Mondays at Mory’s, the Whiffs were always the main event, but Watts said he is concerned that they will be more of a sideshow at Union League, and sing to a smaller crowd.

Perhaps more importantly, Mory’s has long been considered a Yale institution and will always be the Whiffs’ original home, making it hard to replace, current Whiff Drew Westphal ’09 said. Where the walls at Mory’s are covered in Yale’s old athletic medals and pictures of American presidents who attended the University, the walls at Union League are painted with images of soft clouds and decorated with elegant curtains.

Westphal admitted, “On paper, Union League has more of everything than Mory’s. It seats more, it’s more full on a regular basis, the food is incredible, the wine is incredible. Even though it has all those fantastic attributes, it’s missing something Mory’s has. It has everything but the intangibles.”

Westphal said he missed the tables where the Whiffs always sat at Mory’s, which are inscribed with the names of past members of the group. Watts said it felt strange to sing the Whiffenpoofs’ song, which mentions Mory’s several times, in another location.

Dennis Cross ’65, president of the Whiffenpoof Alumni and a member of the board of Mory’s, said he is glad that the Whiffs have found a place to continue their tradition of meeting Mondays, but he hopes and expects that they will return to Mory’s when it reopens, which is scheduled to happen next fall.

For the time being, the Whiffs can be heard every Monday from 6:30-9:00 at the Union League Café. Jean Pierre Vuillermet, the restaurant’s chef and owner, said he is putting into effect a $29 dollar menu for Monday nights, and a 10 percent discount for Yale students who come to hear the Whiffs sing.

Comments

  • Judy

    We recently ate at the Union League on the previous Monday night and this past Monday night. I'm very pleased they relegated the Whiff's to the backroom and shut the doors. The noise from them the past Monday was so bad I wouldn't enjoy my dinner and complained about it. So, I feel it's important to put them in a other room and control the noise. The customers that want to hear the Whiffenpoof noise can sit in that room.

  • Recent Alum

    Was Jonathan Bush a member of the Whiffs?

  • Recent Alum

    Judy -- Nevermind the fact that the Whiffs performed for multiple Presidents and royalty as well as the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa and various TV shows from the West Wing to Gilmore Girls, their "noise" is too annoying for you to enjoy your dinner? Are you serious?

  • Bill

    I was at Union League last night as well, and I agree that giving the Whiffs their own room is probably a good thing, but that's because they are a relatively large group of 14 and - of course - a bit noisy. I don't think it was anything worth complaining about. I was very glad to see members of the Yale community including students at Union League on a Monday just to hear the Whiffs. Perhaps next Monday they'll sing more than three songs in the main room. Keep it up guys!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, they found the one place douchier than Mory's (as Judy can attest).

  • DoodleLover

    @#3

    When Judy said "noise," I am pretty sure she wasn't referring to their singing. As a former roommate of two Whiffs, I can assure you that some of them are very loud drunks :D

  • alum

    Look, when I was in college, I sang in an a capella group. I like this music more than many people. But if I go out for a nice dinner in which I am interested in actually talking to my dinner companion(s), I don't necessarily want to be surprised by a huge, long Whiffenpoofs concert.

    My advice to the Whiffenpoofs is: settle quickly on whether your long-term plan is Monday Nights at Union League, or somewhere else, then get the place to advertise very prominently when you will be there. Over time, diners will catch on. Those who would rather have a quiet dinner or conversation will not be stuck listening to an unwanted concert, while those who would like to hear you, will show up and hear you. It is probably helpful, also, to have most or all of your concert take place somewhere other than the main room. That way diners can sort themselves, at least to some extent.

    It's very expensive to have dinner at Union League, and not everybody welcomes unexpected and very loud entertainment, no matter how melodious. With Mory's, people knew what they were in for. So, whiffs, please be tolerant of the fact that not everybody at every fancy New Haven restaurant really wants you to sing through their dinner.

  • Judy

    Yes, I'm very serious! I agree with Bill they must be in their own room, WITH the door shut! I have been eating a Union League for over 15 years and having someone singing (or making noise) in my ear is rather upsetting to me!!

  • Dan

    There's no way that I would shell out for a nice meal at the Union League if it involved being forced to endure college a cappella music.

  • Anonymous

    I am ANGRY! Notice my use of BLOCK CAPITALS and MULTIPLE exclamation points!!! I have STRONG emotions on this subject!!!!!!

  • YaleProf

    I think one of Mory's problems was the Wiffenpoofs (and other groups). Yale faculty refused to take their guests to dinner there because it was impossible to have a conversation over dinner. Either the Union League will kick them out soon, or the group will have to pay bribes to the restaurant. Long concerts and lame jokes are not what you come to a restaurant for.

  • DoodleLover

    @#11

    I dislike a cappella music as much as the next guy, but you are clearly a poser who's never been to a Mory's on a Monday. They don't sing "long concerts," and their singing isn't loud enough to interrupt dinner conversations (although if they surround your table and sing a song, most patrons at least pretend to listen). You hit the nail on the head on the lame jokes though.

  • YaleProf

    Not a poser, or even a poseur. Been to Mory's more than once on Monday night. The singing is too loud for normal folks to have a conversation, and it goes forever. It's too bad, because a lot of people who come to Yale would like to see Mory's, but the "singing" made it impossible to use Mory's to entertain guests.

  • es07

    "although if they surround your table and sing a song, most patrons at least pretend to listen"

    Ah geez…I personally would avoid a restaurant on a given night if this were even a slight possibility.

    Believe it or not, many people do not enjoy a cappella. Regardless of the Whiffs' reputation, not everyone is going to feel "honored" by the group singing over their dinner conversation. Particularly given that, unlike Mory's, the Union League is not exclusively frequented by Yale folks.

  • Newsflash

    I heard on the radio this morning that the Wiffenpoofs are doing their act at the Study Hotel's restaurant Heirloom on Monday. Now we can all go back to Union League on Mondays to enjoy a private conversation with our dinner guests.

  • AM

    There are no plans for the group to perform at Heirloom at The Study on Mondays.

  • #17

    Thanks for the heads-up. I'll definitely stay away from Union League on Mondays and thank God the Whiff's are not ruining the sophistication of The Study!

  • OldBlue73

    What an odd string of comments. Like Rory Gilmore said, if you want to avoid a capella groups, stay away from building arches and for now Mondays at the Union League. Judy, do you eat there every night or just every Monday night? Like any entertainment there will be some patrons who like it, some who don't. If the Union League and the Whiffs are lucky, more people will be drawn to their nights than are chased away.

  • To the YDN

    YDN -- Please report where and when the Whiffs decide they are going to sing, so that those who don't want to hear them can try to avoid them (and on the flip side, those who are looking for a Whiffs concert will know where to go).