— in a capella singing, of course. As Yale students board buses to Cambridge this afternoon, decked out in Yale Blue and carrying suitcases of dirty laundry to do at home because “it’s free there,” Harvard football’s winning streak will be the last thing on their minds. Instead, the main event this weekend, Yale’s crowning glory, will be the highly anticipated Aca-Kick-Off to end all kick-offs: two days of non-stop a cappella concerts pitting Ivy League favorite Yale against perpetual underdog Harvard.
“I’m going to every jam Friday night. It’s six straight hours,” one over-zealous freshman unpromptedly declared on Old Campus. “My Harvard friends keep telling me that they’re going to win again, but I don’t get it. What do they mean by again? None of their a cappella groups have ever performed on The Sing-Off!”
While many people — from your overly spirited aunt to your “Yale grandpa” hat-toting poppie — may tell you that tomorrow’s big event is “The Game” and the accompanying hundred-year long tradition of Ivy League sportsmanship,Yale students know better. As a slightly more artsy-than-average Yale freshman, I have already registered as “interested”—the highest form of online Facebook commitment — in upwards of five a cappella concerts happening over the course of three hours on Friday evening. Additionally, eleven out of ten surveyed Yale students have committed to attending at least one concert while at Harvard.
Even Secretary of State John Kerry ‘66 admitted to getting in on the fun. “I can’t wait to hear the newest arrangement of “For the Longest Time.” “Top that, Harvard!” Kerry remarked bashfully to the News.
Since the beginning of time, Yale has been relegated to the second half of the phrase Harvard-Yale. When I typed “Yale-Harvard Game” into Google search, it kindly, yet abruptly, autocorrected my “misspelling,” and redirected me to the dreaded “Harvard-Yale Game” Wikipedia page, which informed me that the last time Yale had a winning streak of equal length to Harvard’s current streak was in the year 1889. But it should also be noted that for six out of those 11 games, touchdowns and field goals were counted separately, as the rules of modern football had yet to be finalized.
But this Friday, it’s Yale-Harvard a cappella night. No more being treated like a suffix. We live in an age when “Pitch Perfect 2,” a movie about an all-female college a capella group, beat out “Mad Max: Fury Road” by almost $30 million in its opening weekend; a time when lead singles from the TV show “Glee” consistently make the iTunes Top 10; and an era where 5.1 million viewers tuned in to watch a season special of NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” Style and flair, white gloves and curled hair are our “Friday Night Lights.” Just this year, the annual YSO Halloween show featured a Wes Anderson-style hour-long silent film chronicling the contentious battle between Yale and Harvard, complete with orchestral arrangements of One Direction’s “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” and the mid-2000s mega dance hit “Everytime We Touch.” Beat that, Harvard.
While Harvard gives a paltry showing of a measly 14 a cappella groups, Yale boasts a grand total of 18 — but that’s only as of 8:11 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016; keep your eyes peeled for the newest addition, out any second now. Moreover, the Yale Singing Group Council, formed to oversee Yale’s a cappella rushing process, maintains a pristine website that not only is designed by CS50 students but leaves Harvard’s website — a mere extension of the harvard.edu URL — in the dust.
So, who cares if we haven’t clinched a win since Rory Gilmore graduated from Yale (spoilers, yikes, but if you aren’t caught up for the Netflix revival next week, are you really a true fan?) and Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” topped the Billboard Top 10? Or that the last time Yale won a game, the fashion trends included awkward fedora hats and oversized belts layered on top of everything? In the world of a cappella, we are the king, the prom kings and queens in coordinated black ensembles with a touch of color and lactose-free pre-show diets (to save our vocal chords from mucus, aca-obviously).
Past Yale a cappella victories have included: most creative ways to incorporate the word blue into a clever group name, smoothest mash-up between a song from “Pitch Perfect” and a classic doo-wop hit and cleanest pitch pipe. Popular pre-show rituals include: pregaming with sight reading exercises, forming elaborate massage trains and rehearsing the classic step-touch-snap move an excessively until everyone in the group is in sync.
When interviewed, an unnamed a cappella singer extraordinaire and recent rushee of Out of the New Red Hot Blue said of the upcoming weekend, “I didn’t even know there was a game going on this weekend. What I’m most looking forward this weekend is listening to the altos and tenors practice their parts alone and trying to guess what song they’re supposed to be singing.”
But in all seriousness, while you are drinking away your game-related sorrows with contraband beer or chaotically switching tickets to sit with your friends in row 7,000 of the student section, remember: Yale can come back. Maybe with enough school spirit and knitted college sweaters, we can return to our former football glory. But until then, we’re simply all about that bass. And tenor. And alto. And soprano. Oh, and baritone, too.
Contact Ryan Howzell at firstname.lastname@example.org .