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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Mass. - Calling for Interviews

Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain:

70 years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts

By Jacqueline T. Lynch

1895-1930s: Vaudeville and operetta
1930s WPA Theatre
The Pioneer Valley Drama Festival - 1940
The Valley Players – 1941 – 1962
Casino-in-the-Park 1963
Mt. Tom Playhouse – 1964-1965

I'm currently writing a book on theatre on Mt. Tom - from the late 1800s to 1965.  I'd to interview anyone with connections to The Valley Players, or the Mt. Tom Playhouse -  actors, staff, ushers, or members of the audience with any memories they’d like to share.  I hope to have the book out by the end of the year.

Jacqueline T. Lynch at write to:

PO Box 1394

Chicopee, MA 01021.

I’d be happy to interview you in person (in the western Massachusetts, northern Connecticut area) , or over the phone, at your convenience.    You can also just drop me a note with anything you have to say, if you’d rather not be interviewed, but please include your name.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cape Playhouse Celebrates 90th Season - Dennis, Massachusetts

The Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts is celebrating its 90th season this year.

Founded in 1927, it was the workplace, and for many, a training ground, for so many famous stage and screen actors. 

Have a look at this previous post on my Tragedy and Comedy in New England blog on Ruth Gordon's impressions of performing at the Cape Playhouse in the 1930s.

Here is the remainder of the 2016 season:

Book, Music & Lyrics by Meredith Wilson
July 5-23, 2016

by Molly Smith Metzler
July 26-August 6, 2016

Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb
August 9-20, 2016

by Agatha Christie
August 23-September 3, 2016

Congratulations to this historic playhouse, with a fond wish for many more seasons to come. See their website for more info.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Big Band Swinging in Springfield, Massachusetts

JT Lynch photo

The joint was jumping on Saturday night at for the Springfield Armory Reunion and commemoration of  the 1943 Benny Goodman concert that was held on the Armory grounds. The war workers got a special treat that day in 1943, and so did the visitors to the Springfield Armory National Historic site when Dan Gabel and the Abletones recreated a 1940s Big Band concert.

It was fantastic.

Though inclement weather drove the concert indoors this year (it’s usually an outdoor celebration), and while unfortunately, band leader Dan Gabel was not in attendance, the show was a delightful success.

The orchestra delivered a variety of peppy ditties, slow romantic ballads, and jubilant jazzy hits of the golden age of the big band era that moved some to dance, some to sing, and all to marvel at the excellence of this tight group of musicians.

Their vocalist (in the old days it was “girl singer”) is Elise Roth, who looked the part in a period gown, rhinestone necklace and bracelet, bold lipstick, and her hair coiffed appropriately. More than illusion, the most exciting and charming aspect of her performance is that she sang in the style of the 1940s big band songstresses.  This is an attention to detail that is worth noting and marveling over; for this is not mere mimicry, but a demonstration of educated interpretation of a music genre that is intricate and complicated.  Ms. Roth has her roots not only as a jazz vocalist, but also as a classical vocalist, who studied at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Dan Gabel, whose knowledge and appreciation of big band music is something wonderful, has gathered into this 18-piece orchestra colleagues, friends, and former students like a pied piper (he plays the trombone himself), and he clearly picks only the best. Craig Robbins, recent magna cum laude graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, plays jazz trombone and also sang two numbers, the lovely ballad, “The Way You Look Tonight,” and the swinging, “The Lady is a Tramp.”  Jim Gancarz, drummer, belted out the beautiful, “Berkeley Square” (“boy singers”), and did a mean Gene Krupa imitation throughout on the drums.

These three singers are young, as, indeed are most of this orchestra, and if the first surprise is seeing young people so gloriously talented, so knowledgeable, and so comfortable performing this music which has ceased to hit the popular music charts a couple of generations ago—the second surprise is suddenly realizing their age doesn’t matter.  It’s the music that matters, and they drew a standing ovation from the crowd last Saturday for their truly thrilling musicianship.

JT Lynch photo

John Clark on bari sax and clarinet took on the role of leader and emcee in Dan Gabel’s absence, and he provided humor, and a pleasant ease of guiding the audience, as much as the musicians, from one song to the next.

I was especially looking forward to this event because I’ve followed Dan Gabel and his bands (he also helms the High Society Orchestra which plays music of the 1920s), and always hoped to have an opportunity to catch one of their gigs—which play mostly in the eastern part of the state.  Having him come out to western Massachusetts and the Springfield Armory National Historic Site was a joy, and I was determined not to miss it.  I’ll remember it for a long time to come.

You can learn more about Dan Gabel and the Abeltones here at the website, and at the Facebook page. The orchestra has also produced some CDs.  Look for his upcoming events here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dan Gabel and the Abeltones Coming to the Springfield Armory

This coming Saturday, July 9th is an auspicious day for western Massachusetts, as Dan Gabel and the Abeltones are coming to the Springfield Armory.

Mr. Gabel is a young man whom I have not yet had the pleasure to see perform in person, but whose career and music events in eastern Massachusetts I've been following on his Facebook site.  A big ban enthusiast (who has his own big band, as well as other smaller combos), a scholar on the work of singer and bandleader Vaughn Monroe, and a high school music teacher, Gabel is a marvel of energy, enthusiasm, and rich in talent.  The evening promises to be a real treat for lovers of swing music and an appreciation for one young man who is preserving it.

Details on the Armory event from this press release:

SPRINGFIELD — On Saturday, July 9, the Springfield Armory National Historic Site will commemorate the 1943 Benny Goodman concert which was held on the Armory grounds. Attendees will enjoy the sounds of Dan Gabel and the Abletones, hear rousing vocalists, and swing on the dance floor after free swing lessons. Admission is free.

The evening will begin at 5:30 p.m. with free swing-dance lessons from instructors Michele and Bob Barker. Pre-concert and intermission shows will feature the Small Planet Dancers of Springfield, performing World War II-era dance routines.

The main concert, running from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., will feature Dan Gabel and the Abletones, an 18-piece big band. Gabel played with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Tommy Dorsey, and is considered an expert on big-band-era music. The ensemble features lead vocalist Elise Roth.

Attendees are invited to bring a chair or blanket and enjoy a picnic supper or purchase items from the food vendor on site. The museum, which is wheelchair-accessible, will remain open during the concert. In the case of rain, the concert will move into Building 2 (Scibelli Hall) of Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), where it will be held in the gymnasium.

The Springfield Armory National Historic Site commemorates and preserves the site of the nation’s first armory, established in 1794. Managed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, STCC, and the National Park Service, it is the home of the world’s largest historic American military firearms collection. The site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free. For more information, call (413) 734-8551 or visit

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