Singin’ away again in Margaritaville

The best moment of Shades’ latest tour had all the elements of a typical vacation. Recalling the trip, member David Carpman ’06 described the idyllic tropical scene: a beach, a sunset and a nice hotel. Except Shades members weren’t relaxing after a day in the surf; they were rehearsing.

For most students, the words “spring break” conjure up images of sunshine, bikinis, palm trees and mai tais on white sand beaches. But unlike many of their fellow students, most a capella singers don’t see spring break as a time for vacation, but as a time to hit the road with their group, bringing the repertoire they’ve honed at Yale to performance venues around the country and the world.

Although the trips are primarily designed to help the members gain professional experience, some groups manage to replicate more traditional spring break experiences, even if they have a decidedly a capella twist.

Spizzwinks(?) business manager Matt McCauley ’06 said his favorite tour memory includes playing to a packed house in Bangkok. A traditional a capella scene — until they brought some of the audience back to the group’s five-star hotel rooms.

During Out of the Blue’s 2004 winter trip to Jamaica, the group stayed for free at all-inclusive resorts, spending their days snorkeling, sunbathing, and, of course, singing, member Zack O’Malley Greenburg ’07, a staff reporter for the News, said. But one of these concerts was on a “Booze Cruise” to Margaritaville.

Though not all singers shared such racy tour anecdotes, they all said they value tours for both their professional and social aspects.

“The concerts are important because we are technically professionals,” Out of the Blue pitch Rebecca Blum ’07 said. “But I think people really like tour because of the socializing.”

Mike Davis ’07, who will soon be touring the Southeast with the Baker’s Dozen, agreed with Blum.

“I’m happy to give up my spring break because our tours are fantastic,” he said. “Certainly performing is a huge part of it, but it’s also about performing while getting to have all these amazing experiences.”

Davis said the Baker’s Dozen performs for groups of all kinds, even sororities. “Amazing experiences,” indeed.

Other singers also said it is really the unique life experiences and the strong bonds tours create within the group that make the trips such great opportunities.

“It can be kind of daunting after going through rush to realize that you’re going to be giving up basically every winter and spring break for the next four years,” Carpman said. The tours, however, are definitely worth it. “Personally,” he said, “I know that I wouldn’t be doing anything nearly as exciting as international travel with my friends, so I love it.”

Not all groups, however, will be off to exotic locations this break. Most groups have to alternate more extravagant tours with tours focused more strongly on making money.

Last winter, Out of the Blue had a great time in Jamaica. This year, the group will perform 10 concerts in seven days in the slightly less exciting location of Westchester, N.Y., where the group will try to minimize expenses by staying at members’ houses, Blum said.

Other groups are headed to more glamorous locations this break, requiring substantial planning.

The Spizzwinks(?)’s upcoming tour to California, Paraguay and Argentina has taken eight months to plan and will cost over $20,000, McCauley said. The group hopes to break even from the tour’s proceeds, but McCauley said it might not quite make up all its costs.

Once on their tour, the Spizzwinks(?) will sing to a crowd of 2,000 people during a concert at the University of La Plata in Buenos Aires, mirroring a show the Yale Glee Club performed at the same location in 1942. In Paraguay, the group will be staying with host families in order to maximize their cultural experience.

Carpman said when Shades went to Japan last spring, planning the tour was a major responsibility for tour manager Peter Hasegawa ’06, who is currently taking a year off in Tokyo. Hasegawa is continuing to take an active role in tour-planning for Shades’ return to Japan this spring break.

Finding housing and performance venues for the group is the most difficult part of the planning. But once the group is in Tokyo, the work will continue, with the group performing concerts on about half the days of its two-week trip.

Their off-days will allow for more touristy activities, but only after they rehearse for two or three hours.

It’s not everyone’s spring break, but it’s spring break a capella style.

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