Main Menu · Search · Current Issue · Contact · Archives · Centennial · Letters to the Editor · FAQs
|A Dean's Half Decade||Disunion, Continued|
|Harvard Portrait||Dreams Deferred|
|Front-Door Policy||Kroks Around the Clock|
|The Undergraduate||People in the News|
You could look at it as the ultimate encore: some of the singers were harmonizing on a song they'd first performed half a century ago. The piece was "Johnny O'Connor," the oldest song of the Harvard Krokodiloes, who celebrated their fiftieth birthday in March with a Sanders Theatre concert that reunited 145 Kroks from all eras. Some of the original members-like "Johnny O'Connor" arranger David Edgar '47-were present. Ur-Krok David Binger '49 recalled going to the dean's office shortly after the group was founded to ask for its recognition. The response was blunt: "They said, `Get out of here!'"
Things have changed considerably since then. The all-male Kroks are the oldest of Harvard's a cappella groups, which now include such ensembles as the Callbacks, the Din & Tonics, On the Rocks, the Opportunes, the Radcliffe Pitches, Under Construction, and the Veritones. Only the Kroks, however, embark on a six-continent, 10-week world tour each summer. Five decades of close harmony have gained them quite a reputation; Krok fans have included such worthies as Leonard Bernstein '39, who composed a piece, "Screwed on Wrong," for the group in 1983. The Hasty Pudding's 1982 Woman of the Year, Ella Fitzgerald, jammed with the Kroks in the Pudding's upstairs bar after getting her award. And 1988 saw the Kroks make their Carnegie Hall debut before a sold-out audience.
The early days were considerably more modest. Four undergraduates-Binger plus David Biddle '49, Francis Cabot '49, and Arthur Nichols III '48, M.B.A. '58-formed a quartet in 1946. "We weren't very good as a quartet," says Binger. But they snowballed into a sextet, then an octet, then a group of 12, improving all the way. Though there have been as many as 22 Kroks at a time, 12 has been the magic number since the early 1980s. One of the original dozen was future film and television star Fred Gwynne '51. Gwynne designed the cover of the Kroks' first recording; 16 more records and CDs have followed.
The group's name goes back to the Institute of 1770, whose heraldic insignia included a crocodile. When the Institute merged with the Hasty Pudding, the insignia carried over, and the Pudding had an officer dubbed the krokodilo, derived from a similar Greek word meaning "lizard." Binger recalls offering a magnum of champagne to whoever coined the best name for the fledgling group. "I won it myself," he explains, by simply pluralizing krokodilo. Stuffed crocodiles of all kinds have since served as mascots, and the adjective "reptilian" occasionally appears in Kroks' conversations as a means of self-reference.
Cold-bloodedly, the Krokodiloes continue to thrive on their repertoire of jazz, swing, ballads, and pop standards from the 1920s, '30s, '40s, and '50s. In a typical week they might give three or four performances and rehearse the rest of the nights. The demands of this schedule mean that "Most people aren't four-year Kroks," says Nat Pastor '99, a current member. But in another sense, as the anniversary concert proved, they are all Kroks for life.
Main Menu ·
Search · Current Issue · Contact · Archives · Centennial · Letters to the Editor · FAQs