On Jan. 19, the Virginia Gentlemen posted a series of photos on the a capella group’s Facebook page from what looked like a very chilly place.
This is the message that accompanied the photos:
“We are excited to announce that in the 63 years of The Virginia Gentlemen, we have finally traveled to all 7 continents! It was absolutely surreal being surrounded by a landscape so foreign to our own, and surprisingly it was warmer than Charlottesville!”
The VGs, as they are known, had arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, just the week before, then embarked on a round-trip cruise that would take them down South America’s east coast to the port city of Ushuaia, the waters of Antarctica and the Falkland Islands.
The venerable group served as entertainment on the ship. Although its members did not disembark at Antarctica, due to a lack of visas or the expensive permits needed to go ashore, they said the trip was amazing and the scenery more beautiful than expected.
Since 2008, the group has performed in Italy, Greece, Turkey and northern Europe. They appeared in Australia in 2011 and Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong in 2013. In 2014, they visited Peru and made this video about their trip.
UVA Today recently caught up with Micah Iverson, president of the Virginia Gentlemen, to talk about the voyage to Antarctica.
The VGs posed in front of a colony of penguins on the Falkland Islands, about 1,000 miles north of Antarctica.
Iverson said performing abroad has had a profound impact on the tight-knit group. “We were once on a bus in Hong Kong and there was a father with a crying baby sitting in the midst of us. Acting on a whim, we began to sing our arrangement of ‘All I Have to Do is Dream,’ by the Everly Brothers,” he said. “The baby stopped crying and eventually fell asleep! Small moments like this make up the larger experience that is the Virginia Gentlemen.”
This is one of the many ice floes the a capella group saw in Antarctic waters. The Virginia Gentlemen saw other floes carrying seals and penguins. “The place was teeming with life. It wasn’t what I expected,” Iverson said.
The 14-day cruise took the group through Drake Passage, the body of water between South America’s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. Iverson said that stretch of the trip was fairly choppy because there are no landmasses to buffer the wind or strong seas.
Second-year student Joey Michel and first-year Mark Mora take in the view of Deception Island from the deck of the ship. The island is located in the South Shetland Islands above the Antarctic Peninsula. The horseshoe-shaped land mass is an active volcano and was home to a small whaling industry in the early 1900s.
Iverson said traveling with the VGs has broadened the group’s horizons considerably. “We are also so humbled by the effect our music can have on other people,” he said.
Alexander Rigby, a second-year student from Liverpool, England, leads the VGs on a horseback ride on the island of Tierra del Fuego, the world’s southernmost town. Iverson said trips like this really draw the group together. “It’s nice to be able to interact with the group away from the University,” he said.
There are 14 men in the a cappela group, which was founded in 1953. Four are graduating this spring. The VGs recently held auditions in 1 West Lawn and later welcomed first-year student Jack Gereski to the brotherhood. The group performs about 100 shows a year; its spring concert is March 26 in Old Cabell Hall.
The group performed several times during the voyage. Many of the passengers were older, so the group tailored their performance to their tastes. Iverson said the VGs have lots of older songs in their repertoire and the group prepared for the voyage all fall semester – practice sessions they called “cruise crunches.”
“We had about 60 or 70 songs ranging from the ’50s to the ’90s,” he said, including Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and hits from The Rascals and Billy Joel.
Iverson, who is one of the VGs graduating this spring, said he will miss the brotherhood and the travel. “The people I’ve met and the stories they’ve shared have changed my perception of my own future and what is possible,” he said.