Passions and Obsessions

The famous Whiffenpoofs of Yale and Pundaquit Virtuosi of Zambales perform at Pinto Art Museum

A capella singers who once included Cole Porter, the youth ensemble rising from the ashes of Mt. Pinatubo—two storied groups with a ready, memorable repertoire

The Whiffenpoofs come from generations of singers at Yale University, considered the best a capella group.

Pinto Art Museum is holding a tertulia featuring two world-famous music groups on June 15, 2024, as a significant way of marking the birth anniversary of Jose Rizal. To be held at Pinto Auditorium at 4 pm, the tertulia is a benefit event for the scholars of the Joven R. Cuanang Scholarship for the Arts and Sciences.  (Pinto Art Museum is in Grand Heights Subdivision, Antipolo.)

To perform are the Yale Whiffenpoofs, one of the oldest collegiate a cappella groups in the world. Established in 1909, it is the oldest such group in the US. The group is composed of 14 senior students who compete for admission in the spring of their junior year.

Former members include Cole Porter, Jonathan Coulton and Prescott Bush (former US Senator, father of President George H. W. Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush).

Founded over a hundred years ago, the Whiffenpoofs have been singing around the country and the world, with a wide repertoire of a cappella music. The Whiffs, as they are called for short, have sung for US Presidents—Obama, Bush (41st and 43rd presidents), Clinton, and Reagan. They have performed in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center, and have guested on TV shows such as The Sing-Off, The West Wing, and Glee.

More than 100 years ago, on a wintry January night in New Haven, Connecticut, five of the Yale Glee Club’s best singers gathered at Mory’s Temple Bar to escape the cold. Louis Linder, the tavern’s barkeeper and a music aficionado, welcomed them, and thus an institution was born.

Of those original five, four were members of the Glee Club’s prestigious Varsity Quartet, a group that sang together regularly in alumni events. Unwilling to restrict themselves to performances at public functions, the group began to meet weekly at Mory’s, where they improvised harmonies to songs they loved so well. These weekly meetings soon became a hallowed tradition among the singers.

As their campus fame grew, the quintet searched for a name. Denton “Goat” Fowler, ticked off by a joke about a mythical dragonfish named the Whiffenpoofs, suggested the name. His band mates found the name an apt description of the levity of their gatherings. The name quickly caught on with the group’s followers.

Each generation of Whiffenpoofs has kept the tradition. The name, song, and the weekly date at Mory’s have remained inviolable traditions that bind the generations of Whiffenpoofs.

At Pinto, the Whiffenpoofs will perform some of the most memorable songs, among them, Whiffenpoof Song, Midnight Train to Georgia, Rainbow Connection, When You Wish Upon a Star, House of the Rising Sun, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Dancing with a Stranger, Moondance, and Both Sides Now.

The Pundaquit Virtuosi represents eight generations of musicians and artists trained by Casa San Miguel over the past 26 years through its community arts program, Cuerdas Cuadros. Established in 1994 by Coke Bolipata as a community development initiative for children from the fishing village affected by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, the program has expanded to include talented students from across the Philippines, including Manila, Pampanga, Baguio, Pangasinan, Samar, and Davao.

Members of the Pundaquit Virtuosi have earned prestigious awards, consistently winning prizes at the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA), securing seats in the Asian Youth Orchestra, and receiving grants from the Asian Cultural Council and the Japan Foundation. Additionally, they have been awarded scholarships to esteemed institutions, such as the UST Conservatory of Music, St. Scholastica’s College of Music, the University of the Philippines’ Colleges of Music and Fine Arts, the Philippine Women’s University, Sta. Isabel College of Music, and the Philippine High School for the Arts.

The ensemble has performed globally, recently completing a European tour that spanned 15 cities in eight countries, where they earned enthusiastic ovations from both Filipino and European audiences.

In this tertulia, they will perform select movements from Vivaldi 4 Seasons, Buwan by JK Labajo, arranged by Glenn Aquias, Sana’y Wala Ng Wakas by Willy Cruz, arranged by Orlando dela Cruz, and Kalesa by Ambrosio del Rosario (lyrics by Levi Celerio) arranged by Gabriel Mendoza.

Since June 15 is a few days before the birthday of National Hero Jose Rizal, the Pundaquit Virtuosi will perform Jocelynang Baliuag, with lyrics by Isabelo de Los Reyes, music (unknown), arranged by Glenn Aquias .

During the 1896 Philippine Revolution, the revolutionaries made use of music as a means of expressing their love of country and their dream of a free Philippines. They also wrote songs to inspire them in their mission. Perhaps the most popular song during the revolution against Spain was the kundiman Jocelynang Baliwag, also known as the “Kundiman ng Himagsikan.”

They will also perform Ultimo Adios by Jose Rizal, music by Joey Ayala, arranged by Glenn Aquias.

Jose Rizal’s final poem, Mi Ultimo Adios, was written on the eve of his execution on Dec. 30, 1896. Mi Ultimo Adios was hidden by Rizal in a gas lamp, which was given back to Rizal’s family after the execution. It has been translated into at least 38 languages, and is widely regarded as the most patriotic poem in the world.

Tickets are available for the scholarship program (P5,000 each).

For more information and reservations, please email [email protected] or call (632) 8697 1015.

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