The Big Broadcast! Returns to Mount Holyoke College

The Jazz Ensembles of Mount Holyoke College present the 14th edition of The Big Broadcast! on Saturday, March 2 at 2PM & 7:30PM at Chapin Auditorium, Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, MA. Snow date is Sunday, March 3.. Created and directed by Mark Gionfriddo, who is also onstage as “Matt Morgan”, The Big Broadcast!  is a re-creation of a live 1940’s radio show featuring the Mount Holyoke College Big Band, Vocal Jazz, and Chamber Jazz Ensembles performing well-known tunes from the swing era and the American songbook. WWLP-TV meteorologist Brian Lapis is emcee “Fred Kelley” for his 12th consecutive season. This season marks the 20th anniversary of the Jazz Ensembles of Mount holyoke College and Mount Holyoke alum, fiddler Zoë Darrow will join The Big Broadcast! as special guest.

Mount Holyoke College music faculty member Mark Gionfriddo originally created The Big Broadcast! for a small cabaret group he directed, and incorporated it into the concert season at Mount Holyoke College. It has since been designated as a Signature Event at the college.

“Preparation for the show began early in January when my students and I researched live radio broadcasts of the 1940’s: big band swing music, those great radio serials, and the commercials of the day,” said Gionfriddo. “We incorporate all of those elements into our production to give the audience the feel of an authentic radio variety program on a fictitious station named WJAZ.”

“In researching material for this year’s program, we learned that then up-and-coming Glenn Miller Orchestra performed at the Mount Holyoke Senior prom on February 24, 1939, in Chapin Auditorium. In Celebration of the 80th anniversary o that Prom, we’ll feature some music made famous by Glenn Miller. And, fiddler Zoë Darrow will be performing with us on on two pieces: “Stay A Little Longer” originally recorded by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, and “Ciribiribin” originally sung by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters”.

Mark Gionfriddo (“Matt Morgan”) is well known to area concertgoers as a pianist, accompanist, composer, arranger, and musical director. His versatility and knowledge of many musical styles has brought him together with a wide range of popular and classical artists through the years, among them Mitzi Gaynor, Liberace, Al Martino, Anna Moffo, the Young@Heart Chorus, and Garrison Keillor. Mark’s adventures while assistant conductor on board Cunard’s MS Royal Viking Sun brought him around the world to 30 countries. Mark received his Bachelor’s Degree in Piano from Skidmore College and Master’s Degree in Accompanying from UMASS/Amherst.

Mark has been based at Mount Holyoke College since 1986 where he is a Senior Instructor in Classical and Jazz Piano as well as Director and Founder of the Jazz Ensembles. In 2006, he conducted the MHC Big Band during two episodes of the popular public radio quiz show Says You!. Mark is also a music director for Berkshire Theatre Group in Stockbridge and Pittsfield MA during the summer, and has recently served in that capacity for productions of The Music Man, Peter Pan, A Class Act, Seussical the Musical, Mary Poppins, Beauty and The Beast, A Christmas Carol, Tarzan, and the Neil Ellenoff Musical Mondays series.

Gionfriddo is co-author: Good Night, Dear Hart, Good Night, the story of Hart-Lester H. Allen, whose husband brought down the infamous Charles Ponzi of “Ponzi scheme” fame. The book, on the Epigraph imprint, is co-authored by his mother, Jeannie Gionfriddo.

Brian Lapis (“Fred Kelley”) joined the 22News Storm Team in 1996. He got his start in broadcasting at the age of 15 at radio station WILI, in his hometown of Willimantic, CT. He’s worked as a radio on-air talent for stations in Hartford, CT; Philadelphia, PA; Syracuse, NY; and Providence, RI. Brian has a Bachelor’s degree in Television Radio Film Management from Syracuse University. In addition, he holds a certificate in Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State University. This is his 12th season as WJAZ announcer and emcee “Fred Kelley”. In 2013, the National Weather Association named Brian “Broadcaster of the Year”.

Brian loves performing as “Fred Kelley”. “The combination of the opportunity for me to perform, the creative energy of the students and Mark Gionfriddo, and the great music makes this far and away my favorite event of the year,” he said.  “As a ‘student of broadcasting’, I am one who appreciates the Golden Age of Radio and just how hugely popular these variety shows were in their day.  I’d like to believe that if I were around back in the 1940s, I would have a gig like Fred Kelley’s.”

Zoë Darrow is an accomplished fiddler and musician of rare intensity and expressive range who grew up playing Cape Breton and other Celtic music on a sheep farm in Blandford, Massachusetts. She released her first recording in 2001 at the age of 12, with her band the Fiddleheads. The Valley Advocate named them “Best Celtic Band” in 2007 and Celtic Heritage Magazine acclaimed Zoë as an artist “destined to add savory spice to the global mix.”   A graduate of Mount Holyoke College with a degree in anthropology and music, she has also become a much sought after collaborator, touring and recording with luminaries like banjo innovator Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck’s primary banjo guru and an instructor at the Berklee College of Music. With Tim Eriksen and percussionist Peter Irvine she has toured North America and as far abroad as Singapore.

Performance sponsors of The Big Broadcast! are: Mount Holyoke College, New England Public Radio, WWLP-22News & The CW Springfield, The Republican powering MassLive and El Pueblo Latino, and Loomis Communities.

Tickets (general admission): $25.00 premium front and center seating.$20.00 regular seating. Senior Discounts: $10.00 in advance and $15.00 at the door. Students: $10.00. Tickets are on sale at The Odyssey Book Shop, Village Commons, South Hadley; the UMass Fine Arts Center Box Office; and at the door (subject to availability). For advance phone orders, call 413-545-2511 or 800-999-UMASS. For online tickets, visit www.fineartscenter.com. Doors open one hour prior to each performance.

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