A majority of Yale’s a cappella groups spent spring break touring across the country and overseas, putting on a mix of both paid concerts and charity performances.
Traveling on tour is a significant part of Yale’s a cappella culture, and singing groups usually spend the winter, spring and summer breaks doing so. This spring, some groups sought to visit warmer places in an effort to avoid the New England weather while others found themselves touring the Eastern Seaboard, as well as Canada and Europe.
“We try to build extensive networks in different locations, which allow us to more easily return to places we’ve previously toured to by setting up gigs at places we’d performed at previously,” said The Alley Cats’ business manager Dustin Zhao ’19. “If we’re touring a place we’ve not toured to before, it’s always helpful to reach out to Yale clubs, expat organizations [or] international schools.”
Other singing groups rely more on member students’ connections to arrange performances on tour — a factor that leaves many a cappella groups singing at “schools and retirement communities, events with family and friends in the area and public concerts at community performance venues,” according to Samantha Stroman ’18, business manager of New Blue. On the other hand, groups like Living Water at Yale emphasize charity: This year, the group performed and volunteered at Chicago-based organizations like the Illinois Youth Center and Feed My Starving Children.
“We consider it part of the mission of the group to serve others through music, answering the call of Matthew 25 to serve everyone as though we were serving God in person,” said Andrew Bean ’17, one of the managers of Living Water’s spring tour, who added that performing for charity organizations is not unusual for the group.
Living Water member Serene Li ’17 said that the concert at the Illinois Youth Center this spring was especially moving for her, even though Li has sung at juvenile detention centers on two previous occasions. She noted that the children in the Chicago center seemed to connect with Living Water’s music, as they sang along to the group’s performance of “Blessings” by Laura Story.
While two singing groups, all-female New Blue and all-male The Baker’s Dozen, spent the break touring the East Coast, the coed group Mixed Company went first to Toronto then sang at Cornell in Ithaca, New York. The Alley Cats spent a week in Europe, dividing their time between Geneva and Paris. International locations like these also lead to exceptional concerts at venues of global importance. For example, the Alley Cats performed this spring before the United Nations in Geneva, followed by the American Embassy in Paris.
The Baker’s Dozen got the opportunity to perform for BD alumnus Bruce Cohen ’83, the Oscar-winning producer of the 2000 film “American Beauty.” The group also spent a night at the University of Florida to perform for the sorority Alpha Delta Pi, as they have done annually for many decades. Similarly, Living Water had the opportunity this spring to reconnect with two of their founding members from 1979 and also held two joint concerts with the Yale Gospel Choir.
Along with touring, the two-week break is also an auspicious time in the year for singing groups to spend some time in the recording studio. After performing in Europe, The Alley Cats stopped in Washington, D.C., where the group spent significant time recording a new album. Since this process is time-consuming and taxing, taking out time to record an album means that the group has less time to spend on tour. In the case of The Alley Cats, Zhao said his group would probably have spent more time in Europe had they not allocated time in the studio. For other groups, such as the coed group Out of the Blue, recording an album on campus prevented them from going on tour.