“It’s All About The Music”

There were many highlights at this weekend’s 75th anniversary Candlelight Concert

Scores of alumni traveled from across the country to honor the music that meant so much to them, so many years ago.

Candlelight logoWorld renowned musician David Ohanian (son of Candlelight founder John Ohanian) and former choral director Alice Lipson guest-conducted the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

The fruits of hours of donated labor — searchable digitized recordings from as far back as 1953, scanned photos, souvenir programs — were on display in the lobby.

But one of the coolest surprises came right at the start of each show. The lights dimmed — and instead of the “Sing We Noel” processional, audiences were treated to a 9-minute video.

Created and produced by John Brandt — a 1961 Staples High School grad who sang for George Weigle back in the day — it honors the long legacy of Candlelight.

But it does much more than that too. In a series of clips and brief interviews, it offers a powerful argument for the importance of arts in education. Generations of Westport students have become better, stronger, richer people thanks to the school system’s music program. This stunning video is a tribute to the men and women — and the town — that gave them that gift.

15 responses to ““It’s All About The Music”

  1. Gerry Kuroghlian

    I attended my first Candlelight in 1967 as a new English teacher at Staples H.S. and was thrilled as students came into the auditorium with “Sing We Noel”. Thank you Adelle, Nick, Luke, Alice and David for a night to remember. Seeing hundreds of Staples Alumni join the present students to sing the Halleluah Chorus was the best Holiday Gift one could ever receive!

  2. Dan!
    What a lovely piece.Reminds me how lucky I was to play and sing music under the loving guidance of Jack Adams, Bob Genualdi, George Weigel and John Hanulik. And yes, how lucky to have played and sand in two “Candlelight Concerts” in 1967 and 1968. I got chills too.

  3. As a former choir member with George Weigle(sp?) all the memories came flooding back watching that video. I remember Gene Bayles(sp?) a renouned choreographer from Broadway working with us every year to bring a music and dance number to our performance. Wish I could have gotten back for this one. Am sure it was amazing.

  4. Great video. Especially Dan’s starring role. Do you STILL have chills?

  5. Barbara Wanamaker

    Special thanks to John Brandt for an outstanding presentation.

  6. The most special right of passage as a musician at Staples, and thank you to Mr. Weigel for inspiring me through college and beyond.

  7. I have so many memories of singing in the Candlelight Concert & Mr. Ohanian. It was the event that made Christmas for me. When I was accepted to sing in the “A Cappella” choir that was a very special honor. The musical selections were definitely a sophisticated choice for a High School. How very fortunate I was to grow up in Westport & be surrounded by the arts. I am so happy that Westport has carried on the tradition of including the arts for young people as it is a very important foundation towards the development of the youth. I shall save this article & treasure it along with my memories.( Midge de Santis – Staples class 1960)

  8. Thank you for this post. So many great Candlelight memories!

  9. Lucinda Mirk Setnicka

    Hi Dan – any chance you could post the video at some point? Thanks!

    Reading your account of last night’s concert gave me goosebumps! Such an honor to be part of the Staples HS music program.

    Many thanks for your great writing and this wonderful blog.

    Best wishes to all for a wonderful holiday season.

  10. Chills, tears and great memories. Those of us who grew up in Westport were very lucky.

  11. If anyone ever wonders why I often refer to Staples students as the best behaved, most diligent, and hardest working group of students I have ever worked with in my 47 years as an educator, the answer is that the drive and motivation come from family environment and the overall behavior has much to do with being surrounded by music from their first school experience in elementary school. Music soothes the soul. Music makes us more human. Music helps in the overall development of young people. Learning about and singing music from the Christian and Jewish tradition, from Africa (as was performed Saturday night), and from many other parts of the world is a subtle way of teaching acceptance of people different from “us”. I am so proud of Westport’s sustained dedication to music education and of the young people who performed at this concert. What a great place to live!