It was the fall of 1972. Deb Stranges was a Bowdoin senior, a transfer from Mount Holyoke. As a junior, Deb had been in the Bowdoin Glee Club but as her senior year started, she realized that she did not like the approach or style of the glee club, so she quit. But Deb needed music in her life. “I loved the Meddies and, of course, Mount Holyoke had a strong music tradition. So I decided that, if Bowdoin was going to be a great co-ed institution, it needed a female group similar to the Meddies.”
Late that fall, Deb started asking other women if they would be interested in starting a female a cappella group. Among others who joined what was to be Miscellania were Debbie Duffy and Ann Price, “We got together and had some great voices, but we had two big problems: no music and no name.” To solve the “no music” problem, the girls began by borrowing arrangements from other groups. Here is a sample of some of the pieces that they performed:
I Get A Kick Out of You
Chattanooga Choo Choo
I Can’t Stop Loving’ that Man of Mine
I Don’t Know How to Love Him
Nearer Your Heart
Everybody Needs Somebody
To solve the “no name” problem, the girls spent all of their non-playing, non-studying hours thinking. With a lack of good suggestions at hand, Deb did what all good college students do: she opened the thesaurus and went to the M’s, thinking that a name that was similar to the Meddies might be a place to start.
“Miscellania” was Deb’s best find, so she ran it by the group.
The name had the additional appeal, in those women’s liberation years in the 70’s, of being written or pronounced as “Ms-cellania”. So it stuck and small group of talented girls became Miscellania. Deb was not sure whether or not Miscellania would continue after she graduated, but is adamant that she had a great time while she was a member. “We had a lot of fun and made some pretty good music. I knew Debbie Duffy wanted to continue the group, and she certainly did.”
Bowdoin first recognized the new a cappella group in its College Catalogue for the 1976-1977 year, citing “‘The Miscellanea’ as the female counterpart to Bowdoin’s Meddiebempsters, the only male group on campus at the time. Later, in the Bowdoin College Bulletin, Miscellania was cited as a female augmented double quartet.
Since then, Miscellania has grown to be a part of the tradition of a cappella at Bowdoin College, and is now one of six groups on campus. Distinguishable by their signature black dresses, Miscellania preforms annually alongside other Bowdoin groups as well as off campus in the greater Maine and New England area.
Come see Miscellania, Bowdoin’s oldest female a cappella group, at a venue near you!