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Singing Their Own Tune

Singing Their Own TunePeking and the Mystics – an a cappella group formed by Tufts graduates – is celebrating 30 years of gigs and fun memories. Boston.

Boston [12.18.03] By day, they are executives, consultants and attorneys. By night, they are one of Boston's hidden musical gems. What began as a fun diversion for the Tufts graduates who make up Peking and the Mystics, has turned into 30 years of memorable performances across New England and around the world.

"Just last month, Peking and the Mystics learned they would be performing once again at First Night in Boston," reported The Boston Globe. "They also have gigs lined up at holiday parties and bar mitzvahs. They have cut two compact discs; have performed in Asia, South America, at the Hatch Shell, on Boston television fund-raisers and have been featured on National Public Radio."

Not bad for a group of Tufts graduates from the 1960s and 70s who started singing together over dinners at a local Chinese restaurant in 1973 (which inspired the group's name).

"Tufts alumni regularly hooked up at the Peking, then a Chinese restaurant chain in the Boston area," reported the Globe. "Tim Vaill, who graduated in 1963, was a regular attendee, as was Chris Parker, who graduated in 1969. While sharing laughs and fried rice, the singers would strike up an old doo-wop song from their college days."

The performances - which brought back memories from their days in the Beelzebubs (Tufts' all-male student a cappella group) - were instant crowd pleasers.

"The tight harmonies, Vaill said, captivated the staff and other diners, and erased the beer tab from the check," reported the Globe.

Later that year, the Tufts graduates took their act on the road - performing at a 10-year reunion for the Bubs.

"I was shocked that the alumni could still sing," 1973 Tufts graduate Gene Blake told the Globe.

Blake decided to join the group, which also featured Chet Webster (class of 1972) and Ray Tang (class of 1972) - who have both since left the group. Over the years, they were replaced by Andrew Cranin (class of 1979) and David Pratt (Class of 1984).

As time passed, the group started adding gigs to their calendar, increasing to an almost fever pitch in the months leading up to their first "tour" of the Far East in 1982.

"We did 10 gigs in 12 days once," Blake told the Globe. "We took any gig anybody offered."

The weddings, parties and corporate functions paid off - cementing the group as a Boston fixture and financing their trip to Hong Kong and Taipei. The mayor of Boston event appointed them as official emissaries of the city to the Peking Ambassador.

Thirty years later, the group still enjoys performing together.

"We do this because it's fun," Vaill told the newspaper. "We do charge, because we are professionals, but the reason we do this is because it is fun."

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