The Jazz Ensembles of Mount Holyoke College present the 12th edition of The Big Broadcast! on Sunday, March 5 at 2PM & 7PM at Chapin Auditorium, Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, MA. 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 10th consecutive season.
Earlier announcements stated that performances were scheduled for Saturday, March 4, but due to a Mount Holyoke schedule conflict, the date has been changed to Sunday, March 5.
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.
“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.”
“This year, much of what we’re presenting is all new material to The Big Broadcast!,” says Gionfriddo. “We are performing two Johnny Mercer songs about trains: Harold Arlen’s “On The Atchison, Topeka & The Santa Fe” from the movie The Harvey Girls, as arranged for Rosemary Clooney and Harry James; and Les Brown’s “Sentimental Journey” as sung by Doris Day.
Gionfriddo and Lapis always include one swing era “buddy number” for The Big Broadcast!; this year, they’re rehearsing “Chicago Style” from the Hope and Crosby movie Road to Bali, which they’ll perform as Morgan and Kelley. Gionfriddo and Lapis also sing with a female trio a great arrangement of Irving Berlin’s standard “There’s No Business Like Show Business” as originally recorded by Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, and Dick Haymes.
Gionfriddo added “We are performing a classic ‘riff song’ (written specifically to get people onto a dance floor) by Artie Shaw called “One Night Stand”. I’ve also made a new arrangement of an old chestnut, “My Melancholy Baby,” which will be premiered by Vocal Jazz.
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, 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 Peter Pan, A Class Act, Seussical the Musical, Mary Poppins, Beauty and The Beast, A Christmas Carol, and the Neil Ellenoff Musical Mondays series.
Gionfriddo recently released his first novel: Good Night, Dear Hart, Good Night, the story of Hart-Lester H. Allen, whose husband brought down the infamous 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 10th 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.”
Performance sponsors ofThe Big Broadcast! are: Mount Holyoke College, WWLP-22News & The CW Springfield, New England Public Radio and the NEPR News Network, The Republican powering MassLive and El Pueblo Latino and Loomis Communities.
Tickets (general admission): $20.00 premium front and center seating.$15.00 regular seating. $10.00 seniors and students. 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.
Ticketholders who purchased tickets for Saturday, March 4, may use them for Sunday, March 5. Those ticketholders who want a refund may return their tickets to their point of purchase by the end of the business day on March 3.
For information on The Jazz Ensembles of Mount Holyoke College: