A tourists stumbling around Harvard Yard this week might encounter any number of poles, bulletin boards, or kiosks covered with advertisements for tonight's "Krokodiloes" concert and wonder what sort of strange animal rituals Harvard students practice.
Yet, even most freshmen know that the Kroks are a men's close-harmony singing group, well-known on campus for their humored and tuneful renditions of mostly silly love songs.
While Yale has about 15 of this type of group and Princeton also has several, Harvard has only two men's groups. And, until recently, there was only the Krokodiloes; the other men's singing group at Harvard the Din and Tonics, was founded in 1979.
Members of the two singing groups agree that rivalry among the two exists but is not particularly fierce. Din and Tonics member Ethan C. Anderson '86 says, "We take a lot more chances than the Kroks. We did our first dance number this year." He adds, "There is definitely enough talent at Harvard to fill two or more singing groups."
Yet, many fans refuse to divide their loyalties; ardent Krok fans say that they rarely miss a major concert. "They are good singers and have great senses of humor," said Wellesley freshman Cindy M. Hoyle, adding that she thinks the Kroks compare favorably with similarly groups from other colleges. "The Kroks are better performers--they liven up the audience more."
The group's puzzling name actually dates back to its founding year, 1946. "A bunch of Kroks were sitting around thinking of things to call the group, some of which are too obscene to tell," says Stephen R. Cass '87, the Krok's historian, "but, one of them looked up at the emblem of the Hasty Pudding--a crocodile--and decided that the name could be a variation on the emblem."
The Kroks were born when David G. Binger '48 returned from World War II with a copy of the songbook of a similar group at Yale, the Whiffenpoofs. This group had been singing at Morey's Bar in New Haven since 1912, says Cass.
Binger had bunked with a member of the Whiffs, and, after complaining about the lack of a group at Harvard, was issued one of the three copies of the book, Cassadds.
Binger brought the book back to Harvard and started the Kroks with a group of friends at the Hasty Pudding, a social club. The Kroks still have an office at the Pudding, practice upstairs, and "the upstairs bar is still officially the Krok bar," says Cass.
The Kroks practice at the Pudding three times a week and have a concert approximately once a week.
"Being a Krok for two years has definitely had its side-affects on my academic life. But I don't mind--it's definitely worth it," says Jeffrey A. Korn '86.
The group practices not only its singing, but also choreography. Once of the group's special appeals, says Korn, is that it' "music and entertainment combined."
The Yale Whiffenpoofs concentrate on singing and do little choreography, Cass says. "If there's any group I'd call professional, its them."
The Krok's business manager, Paul Sagawa '85, famous for his vocal improvization, agrees that the Whiffs are professional but adds, "We're a bit more cognizant of entertainment."
The Kroks have at least 60 applicants for about four spots each year, says Cass. He adds that the process of try-outs is intimidating: after a week of cuts, the finalists sing with eight of the Kroks while the other four stand "within a foot of each mouth and listen for blend and tone," says Cass.
The music arranger for the Kroks is Pete L. Mattsfield '76 who arranges for the Boston Pops and other orchestras. "The biggest challenge is making the music stylistically satisfying. What sort of rhythm is set up in the background really sets the style." he says.
Mansfield adds that music from the 1930s and 1940s is most suitable for a close-harmony singing group. "Anything that relies on a contemporary sort of drum beat sound is heavily synthesized and doesn't work well."
The Krok's concert, tonight at 8 p.m. at Sanders Theater, will include the Princeton Tigertones, another close-harmony group. "I don't want to divulge too much, but expect a surprise opening," says Sagawa.