The Jazz Ensembles of Mount Holyoke College present the 15th edition of The Big Broadcast! on Saturday, March 7 at 2PM & 7:30PM at Chapin Auditorium, Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, MA. Snow date is Sunday, March 8.. 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 13th consecutive season. Mount Holyoke alum, bassist and singer Caitlin Jaene Mercer, 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.”
According to Gionfriddo, this year’s program will include: Benny Goodman’s “All The Cats Join In”; “It’s Been A Long, Long Time” by June Christy and Stan Kenton; the Glenn Miller classic “A String of Pearls”; Peggy Lee’s “Black Coffee”, and a rare radio rendition of “On The Atchison, Topeka, and The Santa Fe” by the Andrews Sisters, which was never officially released.
Mark Gionfriddo, creator and director (and “Matt Morgan”) of The Big Broadcast! Is well-known to area concertgoers as a piano soloist, coach/accompanist, composer/arranger, conductor and music director. A versatile musician, Mark is known for his diverse repertoire which includes classical, jazz, rock, and popular music. Mark has been based at Mount Holyoke College since 1986 where he is Coordinator of Piano Studies for the Department of Music as well as Director and Founder of the Jazz Ensembles. In addition, Mark is Catholic Music Director and conducts the Abbey Chapel Singers for the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
In 2000, Mark accompanied Garrison Keillor on the Chapin Auditorium stage in a New England Public Radio benefit show, and he conducted the MHC Big Band in 2006 during two episodes of the popular NPR public radio quiz show “Says You!” During the summers, Mark has been resident music director for Berkshire Theatre Group since 2011for their productions of Peter Pan, Seussical the Musical, Mary Poppins, Beauty and The Beast, A Christmas Carol, The Music Man, Tarzan, Shrek the Musical, and the Neil Ellenoff Musical Mondays series. Mark’s production of A Class Act also appeared off-Broadway at the Robert Moss Theatre.
Mark has recently reunited with the internationally renowned Young@Heart chorus as pianist and arranger, a post he held from 1992-1998. He is also co-author of Good Night, Dear Hart, Good Night, a book about Holyoke’s Hart-Lester H. Allen and the Ponzi scandal, on the Epigraph imprint.
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.”
Caitlin Jaene Mercer, Mount Holyoke Class of 2002, is a self-described chanteuse style singer and a classically trained bassist, who performs original songs, jazz standards, and fronts her alternative rock band Blue Hippopotamus.Her career started when she played bass with the National Youth Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. At Mount Holyoke, she was a founding member of the first Jazz Ensemble, and a singer with the a cappella V8s. After seeing Melissa Ferrick perform at Mount Holyoke’s Women in Music Festival, she chose music as a profession. She’s currently based near Philadelphia, where she mostly plays locally, but she performs nationally in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and more. Her website is: http://www.caitlinjaene.com/ and she’s online on
Instagram and YouTube @CaitlinJaene.
Performance sponsors of The Big Broadcast! are: Mount Holyoke College, New England Public Media, a partnership of New England Public Radio and WGBY; PRIME Magazine; 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 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. Chapin Auditorium is fully accessible.