Last week, as most Yale students caught up on sleep before the spring semester, a cappella groups set out across the country on their biannual tours. In a single week, Yale ensembles sung in more than 12 cities in the United States and Canada.

Winter break tours have long been an important part of the groups’ concert schedules. While the Whiffenpoofs continue their tradition of yearlong world tours, other a cappella groups take advantage of long academic breaks for rehearsal and bonding time.

“My favorite part of tour is that it’s the first time the group really spends a lot of time together, so everyone becomes a lot closer and understands each other a little better,” explained Kai Nip ’21 of Proof of the Pudding. “Winter tour is especially the first time that the new taps actually become well acquainted with the group.”

Many groups have bonding traditions that occur over tour. Mixed Company of Yale member Emma Rutan ’21 said that her group has many winter tour traditions, including a “welcoming” of the new tap class and games like “hot seat” that allow members to get to know each other.

Group bonding is also encouraged by tour location. Most a cappella groups visit a member’s hometown for the winter tour and many even stay in the member’s childhood home. All-senior group Whim ’n Rhythm, for example, stayed in the house of business manager Lili Clark’19 for part of their tour.

“I think because the group came to my hometown, it was so much fun to have that merging of worlds,” Clark said.

Tours also allow students to travel and explore new areas of the country. This year, a cappella groups traveled to cities such as Nashville, Atlanta, Montreal, New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Denver and San Francisco.

Mixed Company, founded in 1981, toured California. Rutan said that her favorite part of the group’s tour was the “combination of bonding and going to see California landmarks like the Griffith Observatory and Laguna Beach.”

Yet, a cappella tours are not all fun and games. Groups use their weeks together for rehearsal time and fundraising opportunities. Nip, for example, said that Proof of the Pudding rehearsed for 4–5 hours and performed 2–3 gigs every day. Rutan said that Mixed Company of Yale rehearsed two hours each night in preparation for their upcoming “jam” on campus.

A cappella groups do not rely on the University for the majority of their funding. Rather, they use tour performances to finance their travel and on-campus activities. Groups charge several hundred dollars per gig. According to Clark, Whim ’n Rhythm charges up to “a few thousand” dollars for each 45-minute performance.

Yale’s oldest a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs, was founded in 1914.

Lindsay Daugherty | lindsay.daugherty@yale.edu