Gunn Music welcomed some special guest artists during the Winter Term, including The Yale Alley Cats, a world-renowned a cappella singing group, and The Dissipated Eight, Middlebury College's oldest a cappella group, whose members include Gunn alumnus Will Dyer ’23. More musical guests will be performing on campus in the weeks ahead.
Billed as Yale University’s “classiest a cappella group,” The Yale Alley Cats were established in 1943 and have performed for public figures such as President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, Martha Stewart, and Jay Leno, according to their website. The Cats also have released several dozen albums and have a repertoire that includes over 400 original arrangements, from jazz standards to Motown, from timeless oldies to contemporary chart-toppers. During an on-campus workshop on January 27, The Cats performed a medley of 10 hits by Michael Jackson, a College Fight Song Medley, and familiar favorites such as "How Deep is Your Love" by the Bee Gees, "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra, and "Just the Two of Us," by Bill Withers, William Salter, and Ralph MacDonald.
“Bringing this fun group to campus may have to be an annual event,” said Ron Castonguay P’27, Director of the Arts and Music Director, who is coordinating the visiting artists. “We even learned and sang one of their iconic songs, 'Everybody Wants to be a Cat,' from Disney’s The Aristocats. Afterward, Charles Calkins sent me an email and said in his year and a half with the group, that was probably the quickest they’ve ever taught and performed that song. It was a testament to our group, and he said if The Cats come back next year, they’ll have to level up the difficulty of that song!”
For Castonguay, having professional musicians perform on campus provides inspiration for current students, and shows them that it is possible to continue to nurture their love of music beyond Gunn, even if they choose a non-music major in college. “It’s an opportunity for our students to have fun and to sing with them. I just wanted them to be inspired,” he said.
On February 8, The Dissipated Eight performed "Put the Blame on Mame," which was originally written for the 1946 film, Gilda, and other songs, including the 1970s chart-topper, "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass, which featured a solo by Dyer, a former member of Gunn's Vocal Ensemble. “They were awesome,” Castonguay said. “And congrats to Will for being the only freshman in the group!”
Established in 1952 as a barbershop octet, The Dissipated Eight has compiled a vast archive of music and recorded 23 albums, according to their website. The group performs all over New England (as well as in Bermuda and Costa Rica) at private venues, colleges, and high schools, blending traditional and contemporary a cappella.
More great musical guests are on tap during the winter and spring terms. On February 16, Gunn Music will welcome a jazz quintet and on March 29, The Yale Spizzwinks, America’s oldest underclassman a capella group, will perform at Gunn. Composed entirely of full-time Yale underclassmen, The Spizzwinks perform concerts all over the world at venues including Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, the Connecticut Open tennis tournament, and the historic Kennedy Center. They have performed for Lady Gaga at Yale and internationally for John Kerry at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, for the bicentennial celebration of U.S.-Chile relations in Santiago, at historic churches in Istanbul and Ecuador, and with the Cape Town youth choir.
To hear some of the performances by The Yale Alley Cats and The Dissipated Eight, follow @frederickgunn.arts on Instagram.