Soon after the doors of Studzinski opened on Saturday evening, the auditorium filled to capacity with alumni and students there to celebrate the longstanding a cappella tradition of the Bowdoin College Meddiebempsters.
Alumni and current members of the Meddies, Bowdoin’s oldest a cappella group and the third oldest group in the nation, got together over Homecoming Weekend to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the group’s creation.
Peter Grace ’52 delivered opening remarks on the rich history of the Meddies. In 1937, the year the group was founded, a cappella recruitment began with an advertisement in the Orient looking for “eight men who weren’t tone deaf” and these talented gentlemen filled the ranks of the original ensemble.
The concert opened with all of the 100 Meddies in attendance singing a rendition of “Glorious Apollo” and the College alma mater. Performances from each era grouping followed, in which Meddies of different generations provided a slice of their decade’s style and musical trends.
The evening was filled with anecdotes, laughter and nostalgia as former Meddies reminisced about the group’s history and traditions. Grace reminisced about the group’s 1948 tour through the Northeast, when the Meddies performed for President Truman’s family. After hearing them sing, Truman offered the group the opportunity to embark on a singing tour of Europe that summer.
About an hour into the concert, however, an elder Meddie succumbed to severe dehydration and collapsed on stage. He was then transported to the hospital and made a full recovery, and the concert continued after a half hour intermission.
Alumni Relations hosted a cocktail hour and dinner for former and current Meddies prior to the evening performance to acquaint and discuss the Meddie tradition. Former Meddies Frank Tonge ’67, Arthur Ostrander ’64 and Robert Cocks ’66 discussed the opportunities and relationships that stemmed from their membership in the group, which Tonge describes as “all worth it.”
He elaborated on the relationship he developed with music as a result of his a cappella experience. While he did not pursue music as a career, Tonge stated that both his role in the Meddies and learning to better appreciate music has become “centrally important in my life”.
“I was a better Meddie than I was a student,” Tonge said.
Robert Rabold Menz ’79, who remembered performing in 36 concerts as a first year, said, “I’m not sure if I took classes…Meddies is what I did”.
Giving advice for future Meddies, Ostrander stated, “just continue…we want them to flourish and they need to develop new music and new styles and enjoy what they are doing. Its one of the nicest things that they are starting to embrace the older music.”
The shared camaraderie continues to inspire and influence current Meddies. Will Tucker ’14 joined the ensemble fall of his freshmen year, and calls the Meddies “the defining extra-curricular factor in my college life”.
The current cohort of Meddies rehearses five to six times a week. Tucker said that the songs in their repertoire date back to the group’s inception, paying tribute the Meddie tradition.
Meddie Ryan Holmes ’13 said that his experience in the group has “dictated the core of [his] Bowdoin experience,” adding that the group’s legacy is “brotherhood in song.”
Alumni Relations organized the reunion and Sarah Cameron ’05 spearheaded the committee alongside co-chairs Lindsay Lessard, Ostrander, and Anthony Antolini ’63. After a year’s worth of planning, Lessard was pleased with the “wonderful turnout.” 100 Meddies attended the concert and reception.
“When the Meddies get together, it’s a blast,” said Menz.