By MIKE CHAIKEN
When the Yale Whiffenpoofs hit the stage at Memorial Boulevard School auditorium, audiences will experience a little local aural aperitif before the headliners raise their voices as one.
Vocal ensembles from the city’s three high schools—the Bristol Central High School Madrigals, Bristol Eastern’s Strawberry Fields, and the St. Paul Choir—will serve as the opening acts for the world renowned Whiffs.
The opportunity is one the students are cherishing.
Olivia Mason, a member of the Bristol Central ensemble said, “It is such an honor. It is also really exciting. Being in the performing arts in a high school is full of never ending excitement and opportunities.”
“The Yale Whiffenpoofs are actually the first a cappella group I ever saw,” said Brooke Cyr, the president of Eastern’s Strawberry Fields. “They came to my school to perform when I was in first grade and since then I’ve been amazed. To share the stage with them will be an experience I will never forget. It’s an incredible feeling.”
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity to have my school perform for the same crowd as the Whiffenpoofs,” said Cameron Grant of St. Paul “Alhough it does, of course, make one anxious to have to reach the standards set by such a professional group, I feel we are up to the task.
Like the Whiffs, the students from the high schools will be singing without musical instruments as accompaniment—best known as a cappella.
Cameron said, “A capella is one of thee most organic types of music out there. There’s no instruments, just the human voice.”
“I love a cappella music so much,” said Olivia. “It really showcases talent when you can be in four-part harmony and blend to make a song come to life. I think it is very interesting for audiences because of just the concept of performing without anything to sing with. It really is a group effort.”
Brooke said: “What I love about a cappella music is the way it’s brought so many people together. There’s something magical about the way voices blend together to create music and it’s not just any music. It’s music made completely without instruments… I can honestly say it’s completely changed my life. It’s brought together people from all different walks of life. I’ve met some of my best friends because of it and I’ve learned so much over the years. I think audiences will find it interesting and exciting that we can make our voices come together to sound exactly like instruments. We turn popular songs on the radio into songs made only of voices. It’s truly remarkable.”
The students also view the opportunity to watch the ensemble from Yale as a learning experience.
“I think that watching them perform will allow us all to see how to properly express music, as well as to entertain an audience rather than ‘just sing,’” said Olivia.
Cameron said: “Seeing a group that puts so many hours into a performance is always wonderful. To see how they work together as a group will certainly be an interesting experience.”
Brooke said, “When I watched the Whiffenpoofs as a child, I was in awe. Even though it’s 12 years later and I’m ready for a new chapter in my life, I still believe they’ll give me that same feeling. They’ve already taught me what an a cappella group should be. They’re an inspiration to many and are the reason I became interested in this type of music in the first place. To perform on the same stage as this group is a great honor and I’m so thankful for the experience.”
The students also will have an opportunity to perform for a paying crowd on the afternoon of April 19.
Brooke said, “I think performing for people who have taken the time out of their day and the money out of their wallets will be much different than when we do our normal, no expense, concerts at the school. I feel this will give me a taste of what it’s like to be a professional musician. I’m going to college for classical vocal performance and I’m hoping this experience will give me a feel for what it’s like to have people pay to see you perform.”
“I think that one learns best through experience, so being able to perform in front of a paying audience will be very helpful in learning about a cappella performance,” said Cameron. “We’ve prepared quite a bit for the concert, but there’s only so much you can know about something before you actually do it.”
But Olivia said—paying crowd or not— she will take it all in stride. “We are always ready to perform, paying crowd or not.”
As for what audiences can expect from the young performers, Cameron said, , “I’d hope you could expect it to be excellent.”
Olivia said, “I would have to say that the audience can expect us to perform to our greatest ability. We put so much hard work into our pieces and David Nelson is a great director. He always tells us to find the message in our songs, so hopefully we can do the same for the audience.”
“Strawberry Fields will be performing two new songs we’ve been working on that have never been performed before and also one of our old favorites from our repertoire. To find out what songs we are performing, I guess you’ll have to come to the show,” said Brooke. “We promise it won’t be a waste of time.”
The Whiffenpoofs perform at the Memorial Boulevard School auditorium on Sunday, April 19 at 1 p.m. Musical ensembles from Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern, and St. Paul Catholic high schools also will perform at the event.
Tickets are $20. For tickets, go to https://www.ticketriver.com/event/14873 or visit the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce at 200 Main St., Bristol.
By MIKE CHAIKEN