Society of Orpheus and Bacchus Perform at HSE
At Yale, a Glee Club is an essential part of the university tradition. There are three groups there: the The Whiffenpoofs is the oldest choir, founded in 1909, the Yale Russian Chorus, and finally, the SOBs – the group with the most unusual repertoire, and who recently came to Moscow to perform at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and also at HSE.
The SOB surprised the guests not only with the quality of their performance, but with the ease and boldness with which they treat modern pop hits.
Russia has its own strong tradition of choirs, influenced by Church choral singing and folk song culture in general, and for Russians who are accustomed to songs such as ‘Oh, You Wide Steppe’, it can seem strange to see a choir where the singers are virtually dancing to pop music arranged for several voices, instead of standing motionless with sheet music in their hands. The SOBs showed that this new approach is not only possible but also the way forward for choral music.
The all-male acapella SOB group was founded by twelve students in 1938 in one of the bars of New Haven. The name stands for The Society of Orpheus and Bacchus and each week the choir performs at Mory's Temple Bar, the bar where they were first formed.
The choir's repertoire includes more than 200 songs in jazz and barbershop style, and includes several old student hymns and gospels as well as many choral arrangements of modern pop songs by artists such as Radiohead, White Lies and Amy Winehouse. Every year the choir records an album, the latest is titled Now and For All Time (2015) and includes cover versions of songs by Bon Iver, Queen, Leonard Cohen and other famous artists. First and foremeost, however, the SOBs is a live and very mobile project that students are happy to take part in, and even those who don’t have perfect pitch are still keen to attend their concerts, listen to their favorite songs, enjoy the performance and just have a good time.