| The 2013 Whiffenpoofs here are, from left, Max Henke, Andy Berry, Alex Caron, Henry Gottfried, Reuben Hendler, Spencer Klavan, Brandon Levin, McKay Nield, Michael Protacio, Daniel Reardon, Brad Travis and Michael Young. Courtesy photo
The word Whiffenpoofs sounds like something one should offer another with a stuffy nose, but the a cappella men’s choir behind the name is nothing to sneeze at.
Since 1909, when the Yale University singing group formed, legends such as Cole Porter have been members of the exclusive society that admits university juniors to only 14 spots. Once chosen, the choir members take off what would be their senior year and dedicate themselves to touring the globe performing in world-renowned music halls and grocery stores along the way.
Some valley residents might remember being “flash-mobbed” this time last year, when the group was invited to perform as part of the 22nd annual Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree. The singers seemingly spontaneously burst into song in a number of locations from Hailey to Ketchum, delighted the unexpecting onlookers and charmed everyone with their clean-cut, highly nostalgic performances.
The 23rd annual Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree gets under way this week in venues around Ketchum and in Sun Valley, starting today, Oct. 17, and running through Sunday, Oct. 21. This year, the Whiffenpoofs Community Outreach Singing Tour will include several stops in Ketchum on Thursday, Oct. 18. They will start at Cristina’s Restaurant and Bakery at 12:15 p.m. and then move on to Atkinsons’ Market at 12:35 p.m., to T’s and Temptations in Giacobbi Square at 12:50 p.m. and ending at Perry’s restaurant at 1 p.m.
All the appearances are free as part of the jamboree’s efforts to educate and engage community members of all ages while they’re in town.
It was a similar outreach program, this one the Sun Valley Summer Symphony School of Music, that brought one young Whiffenpoof, Michael Protacio, to where he is today. Last Saturday, he was waiting to perform for comedian Jon Stewart and his autism awareness benefit in New York City.
This week, the program will bring back the singer who spent many a vacation away from Virginia to enjoy the recreation and culture of the Sun Valley area. Protacio, 21, is coming back to the valley for the first time in years since he took part in the vocal program offered by the Sun Valley Summer Symphony School of Music each summer during its free concert series. That sealed his decision to seek out Yale for its world-class performance training and ultimately to a successful audition for the Whiffenpoofs.
“Sun Valley has always been my second home,” he said Saturday, trying to distract himself until the night’s performance. “And I met (mezzo soprano) Lara Nie through the symphony and worked half my singing life with her.”
That training helped drive the young tenor to join the Whiffenpoofs.
In addition to traveling worldwide, Protacio said he enjoys the camaraderie of the small group and said the work keeps them so upbeat that it’s worth delaying graduation a year to be a part of it.
“I’ve met a whole different collection of seniors and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to travel the world with new friends.”
Among them is an Idaho-born-and-bred singer named McKay Nield, who hails from Kimberly, near Twin Falls.
As for being able to return to the valley?
“This is something I have always dreamed of, bringing some of my best friends to the place I love the most in the world. I am glad to be able to share the joy with family and friends. It will be really nice to be a part of the music scene again. It’s always been a big part of the Sun Valley experience for me.”
To catch a Poof
If you’re in Ketchum between noon and 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, swing by Cristina’s restaurant at 12:15 p.m.; Atkinsons’ Market at 12:35 p.m.; T’s & Temptations in Giacobbi Square at 12:50 p.m. or Perry’s restaurant at 1 p.m. to see the Whiffenpoofs. Or, get tickets to the Jamboree where they will perform from Wednesday through Sunday. Check in at the Jazz Festival registration office at Sun Valley Resort or visit online at www.sunvalleyjazz.com. Also, catch their performance on the “Night of Too Many Stars” on Comedy Central, Sunday, Oct. 21. Check local listings for time and channel.