Their name may include a question mark, but their appeal is not in question.
The Yale Spizzwinks(?) — an all-male a cappella group — have entertained sold-out audiences that have included Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and pop superstar Lady Gaga. Their recent concerts have taken them to China, Europe, New Zealand, South Africa and across the United States from Madison Square Garden to the White House.
On Saturday, Jan. 7, the 14-member troupe performs at Tilles Center with a set list of old standards and recent hits.
ABOUT THE GROUP
The Spizzwinks(?) — the first and oldest a cappella group made up of underclassmen in the United States — have a handful of high-profile alumni, including Lewis Spratlan, who in 2000 won the Pulitzer Prize for music, and Robert Lopez, a composer for such Broadway productions as “Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q” and the box office hit “Frozen.” In 2014, Lopez and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, won the best original song Oscar for the ballad “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” With that win, he became the youngest EGOT winner, at 39.
The group’s history guides its present-day performances.
“Our group is unique in that we only perform arrangements written by current or previous group members,” says Donovan Sabog, 20, the group’s business manager. “With a 103-year-long history, our repertoire is very diverse, ranging from traditional jazz standards to new pop songs, and, of course, classic Yale tunes.”
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The Tilles Center show will feature a jazz arrangement from Spratlan titled “I’ll Remember April.”
The Spizzwinks(?) are a student-run organization open exclusively to freshmen, sophomores and juniors. And the troupe has the school newspaper to thank, at least in part, for its name.
A MEMORABLE NAME
The group’s unusual, punctuation-tinged moniker came about by accident: A newspaper editor inserted a question mark in parentheses to double-check its spelling — and it got printed. The mistake stuck.
It is typical for members to stay in the Spizzwinks(?) for the three years they are eligible. The Whiffenpoofs are an on-campus a cappella group for seniors that some Spizzwinks graduate to.
The Spizzwinks(?) practice twice a week for two hours and during a one-hour sectional rehearsal each Sunday. They also headline weekend concerts and tours throughout the school year.
“Our group is very fortunate to be able to carry out ‘the Spizzwinks Promise’ every year,” says Sabog, a junior and history major. “The promise states that by the time a Spizzwink completes his junior year, he will have visited all six inhabited continents plus his hometown and the hometowns of everyone else in his class.”
So far, Sabog has been to South Africa, Turkey, Colombia and China, and this year will complete the promise when the troupe visits New Zealand and Europe.
Sabog, 20, of Honolulu, Hawaii, books the group’s gigs and oversees their tours. The Spizzwinks(?) performed at a state lunch in front of Kerry and for Lady Gaga at the Emotion Revolution Summit in October.
While the group hopes to retain some element of surprise, current hits to look forward to at the Tilles Center performance include “Some Nights” by Fun., “Pompeii” by Bastille, and “Leave Your Lover” by Sam Smith.
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m., Jan. 7, Tilles Center, 720 Northern Blvd, Brookville
INFO 516-299-3100, tillescenter.org
TICKETS $20 ($10 ages 18 and younger)