The Yale Whiffenpoofs

The 2020 Whiffenpoofs, one of Yale’s most renowned singing groups, released their new album after a nearly 15-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Along with the “Whiffs on Ice”’ album release, the group hosted a livestreamed premiere event on Sept. 23. The project began as one of the trademarks of a normal Whiffenpoof year, which includes international and domestic touring followed by the release of an album. But they were cut off in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Although the group toured the country for three weeks over the summer, they could only resume in-person album production after returning to Yale in the fall of 2021. 

“We are really a year and three months late — after COVID-19 hit and touring became impossible, we really only had the album to look forward to, and really took our time with it,” Alex DiMeglio ’20+1, musical director of the Whiffenpoofs and co-producer of “Whiffs on Ice,” said. 

The 2020 Whiffs recorded the album in two stages — one pre-pandemic and one post-pandemic. In the pre-pandemic stage, the group recorded in person at the home studio of Ed Boyer, a sound engineer in Connecticut. After the pandemic hit, recording with Boyer became impossible. But according to DiMeglio, beginning in November, the group could record in a New Haven studio called Firehouse 12 that had “stringent” COVID-19 protocols. For instance, if the group was recording with three people at a time, each person was required to stay in a separate room, isolated from the others and singing into a microphone. According to DiMeglio, this was both in compliance with Yale’s health guidelines and a way to keep the group members safe.

“Whiffs on Ice” has 17 tracks, 10 of which were arranged by the members of the 2020 Whiffenpoofs and seven of which are older arrangements by previous members. Although the group officially had six arrangers, every member has a solo in the album and three songs feature all group members.

“Everyone also got to pick their own song, so the album as a whole is representative of everyone as an individual,” said Scott Etan Feiner ’19+1, assistant music director of the Whiffenpoofs 2020 and co-producer of “Whiffs on Ice.” According to Feiner, the group’s inability to tour because of the pandemic extended its capabilities and provided extra time for the album to become a “statement” of the 2020 Whiffs. 

The Whiffs and all-senior soprano-alto group Whim ’n Rhythm are the only a cappella groups on campus whose members are replaced entirely each year. According to Feiner, this allows everyone to have a hand in the album’s creation, since all the members were mutually on the same page and wanted the album to be an “expression” of the group. The production of the album also allowed the members to stay in touch when it was impossible for them to be physically present with one another. 

“Especially for me, I am a year older than everyone else in the group, so I was not on campus when everyone else was having their final pandemic year on campus,” Feiner said. “And it was nice to be able to come to New Haven to music-direct some recording sessions, to work on arrangements with other people, to get to do something musically collaborative in a time when that wasn’t happening.”

As business manager of the 2020 Whiffs, Mark Gustaferro ’20+1 was in charge of booking all the performances, prospective travel logistics and managing the group’s organizational and financial operations. According to Gustaferro, the album was an “ambitious” project, given that much of the album consisted of new arrangements. He added that the album’s production is “awesome, and kind of a miracle,” given that the majority of the recording occurred during the group’s senior year after the 2020 Whiffs had been replaced by the class of 2021.  

“I am personally very grateful to the people in my class of Whiffenpoofs who stepped up to help manage the complex logistical operations surrounding COVID-19 and record an album safely during a pandemic,” Gustaferro said. “In my humble opinion, I think the music is spectacular and Alex and Scott did an incredible job with [it].”

The Whiffenpoofs, established in 1909, are the oldest collegiate a cappella group in the country.

Gamze covers music news for the Arts desk and writes for the WKND. She is a sophomore in Pauli Murray majoring in psychology and humanities.