Tuesday February 19, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- What is normally reserved for bachelorette parties and friendly dares will soon be broadcast over the radio.

Popolo, an Italian-inspired restaurant in the village, plans to co-present a singing competition that blends karaoke and live radio into a hybrid known as Radioke. First dreamt up by Gary Smith, John-Michael Maciejewski and Kristen Fehrenbach at WOOL: Black Sheep Radio in 2010, Radioke transmits live karaoke performances over the radio for the world to hear.

This will be the fourth Radioke and will consist of a three-show series with contests on Saturdays, Feb. 23, March 9 and March 23. Proceeds from the event will be donated to WOOL, which is a non-profit, member-owned and volunteer-run organization. While the other Radiokes were held at the radio station, this one will take place in the Windham Ballroom adjacent to Popolo, which is co-owned by Smith, Maciejewski and Fehrenbach.

Smith said the idea spawned when he and his co-workers were trying to devise something that would be interesting on the airwaves and engaging to the community. He searched on the Internet, found out no one had tried it before and WOOL became the first station in America to broadcast live karaoke.

He explained that Feb. 23 and March 9 will be first rounds in which five finalist are whittled down from 10 contestants that battle it out on stage. Competition is limited and contestants can enter only in person on either of those days.


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Smith said if there are more than 10 interested individuals, names will be drawn from a hat. The 10 singers that survive the test will advance to the finals on March 23.

"I'm looking forward to people having uninhibited fun in a public place," he said. "The chances of winning is quite high if you get into the competition."

He said Samirah Evans, a New Orleans-born jazz and blues vocalist that now lives in Vermont, will serve as a judge during one of the days. WOOL President Mark Piepkorn said it is not strictly a singing competition, as the judging is based on timing, pitch, and performance.

In other words, "being an over-the-top ham can score as many points as being technically excellent," he said. "And being a technically excellent over-the-top ham is like hitting a home run."

The event will be hosted by Maciejewski, the chef at Popolo. He was not available for comment on Monday.

Piepkorn said though it is not a professional competition by any means, a $500 prize will be split among the first-, second- and third-place finishers. He said each participant will sing on stage with a karaoke machine that has hundreds of songs to choose from -- though singers are welcome to bring their own disks with them if they want to.

Piepkorn said the performances will be broadcast live on 100.1FM and webcast on www.wool.fm.

"it's a great time. The first time it started out with about 60 people and become a couple hundred," he said. "It's a hoot."

Admission is $5 and tickets are available at www.popolomeanspeople.com and in person at the restaurant at 36 The Square. There will be 120 tickets sold for each session.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.