The evening of Jan. 7 featured a “first” at the venerable Heights Casino, a private club founded in 1904. It was the first formal concert ever held in the doubles squash court. Performing were the Harvard Krokodiloes, one of the finest a cappella groups in the world.
The group warmed up in the court, which is the only doubles court in the world that was excavated below ground. Spectators sit or stand above the court looking down; the acoustics are powerful and memorable, and the Kroks ended up performing to the delighted audience for almost half an hour. Then the formally attired singers moved upstairs to the Governors Room for the official concert and dinner.
That brings us to the Farkas family. Noted Brooklyn attorney George Farkas, who was the inspiration behind the appearance by the Kroks at the Heights Casino, made the evening a full-on reunion because his nephew, Max Masuda-Farkas, happens to be the lead bass singer with the Kroks.
Joining George and his wife, Betty, at the Farkas table was their son Michael, who has just been elected head of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association. Michael’s wife, Laura, was there, as well as George’s daughter Randi and her husband, Laurence Cohen. There was one empty chair, to be filled after the concert. That spot belonged to Max.
Max sings bass. His bright smile and booming voice, along with the 11 other Harvard Krokadiloes, brought the crowd in the Heights Casino’s Governors Room to its feet over and over.
Twelve young men, possessing what could be considered some of the greatest singing voices among university students in the country, serenaded the guests of an event benefiting the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project.
The elite Harvard Krokodiloes stand by values such as teamwork, cooperation and giving back to the community.
“A cappella lends itself to being exposure of the true beauty of music because it involves individuals using their voices as the main generator of music, rather than an instrument or accompaniment,” freshman member Michael Wingate says. “When you sing with an instrument the instrument helps you stay along, but when it’s just voices, you are depending on each other.”
The evening began with the Krokodiloes performing in the Casino’s squash doubles court with the guests watching from the viewers landing above, making for amazing acoustics.
The night proceeded when the singers continued to perform for guests in the dining room before joining them for dinner.
Although the group takes a winter and summer tour each year, traveling across the country performing at different venues for various events, Max says this trip has been particularly special.
“I have a huge amount of family here, including my uncle, his wife, my cousins and my grandmother — it’s a homecoming in a way,” he says. “It’s bringing disparate worlds together — my academic world with the place where part of my family began.”
Senior Andrew Hausman, general manager of the Krokodiloes, said performing for audiences that are fundraising or benefitting a group or charity is the most rewarding situation.
“No one is more appreciative than an audience putting on a charity event or fundraiser,” Hausman said. “It makes it a real treat when we get to perform in those types of situations because we can feel a difference when an audience isn’t as appreciative.”
Wingate agrees that this is the most gratifying type of performance.
“When you are in situations like this, music becomes more valuable,” he says. “When it is appreciated by someone else it has an emotive effect on people and can help both mentally and emotionally. And when it’s a benefit, it’s also tangibly helping because of funds that are raised, which makes it all the more special.”
In attendance was former member of the Krokodiloes Eric Pitt, who was in the group in ’91 and ’92. He served as music director during his latter year.
“I like to see them when they come to the area,” Pitt says. “It’s nostalgic and fun.”
While the night was filled with entertainment and talent, the purpose of the benefit remained on everyone’s minds.
“Being in a high-profile, prestigious school, you run a risk of coming off ungrateful,” Masuda-Farkas said. “But we are given astounding opportunities to give back, and that is pretty crucial to our program. We are an insanely fortunate group with so many people helping us out. The least we can do, which is at the same time really rewarding for us, is give back.”