As Franklin & Marshall celebrates its 225th anniversary this academic year, the College's oldest a cappella group is marking a milestone of its own.
The Poor Richards, F&M's only coed a cappella group and one of the College's oldest continuously operating student clubs, is celebrating its 45th anniversary with a special edition of its annual Almanack concert at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 27, in Miller Recital Hall. The students will perform a dozen pieces, from familiar oldies to contemporary numbers.
"We have a great, dedicated alumni base, and we're excited to see many of them at the concert," said F&M student Moira Thompson '14, president of The Poor Richards. "We're a family, and many of our alumni have made lifelong connections through this group. It's going to be a wonderful evening."
In a nod to one of the College's namesakes, the group takes its name from "Poor Richard's Almanack," an annual publication authored by founding father Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. Franklin published the almanacks under the pseudonym "Poor Richard." The group's end-of-the-year concert, the Almanack, also honors the Franklin connection.
The group traces its origins to 1967, when it began as an all-male Glee Club. In 1968 it became "The Poor Richards," and the following year -- when the College became coeducational -- women joined the group for the first time.
Thompson, a tour guide with the Office of Admission, had a coincidental brush with the group's history in March when she met Larry Miller '72, one of the founders of the group, at a College Open House. Miller was visiting F&M with his child, a high-school junior.
"I sat down with him and we talked about the history of The Poor Richards," Thompson said. "A few days later, he sent me a package that included a vinyl recording from 1968, the group's first year. He also sent me the first press release with information about the group. It is incredible that our current group is part of this history."
While the Poor Richards' schedule has evolved over the past four-plus decades, the group now performs a series of four concerts each year to showcase a cappella music to families, friends and alumni. The lineup usually includes a fall opening concert, a holiday concert, a trilogy with other a cappella groups on campus (The Chessmen, Sweet Ophelia and Kite & Keys), and the Almanack.
But other performances also have left imprints on the memories of Poor Richards alumni, including weddings and other special events. Kelly Kennedy '04, director of College programs at F&M and a member of The Poor Richards during her senior year, recalls an especially moving experience following the death of fellow Poor Richards member Timothy Ruiz in 2004.
"A group of us went [to New York] for his funeral and sang 'Seasons of Love' from 'Rent' at the service," Kennedy said. "In September of that same year, we got together at a studio and recorded 'Seasons of Love' in honor of Tim. We also attended his memorial service a year later in the Bronx, and sang the song again. Although I didn't know Tim as well as the others, it was a beautiful example of coming together and using music to begin to heal."
For the April 27 performance, admission is $1 for students at the door and $2 for members of the faculty and professional staff and general public.