Candlelight Concert Wows Worldwide Audience

Staples High School’s Candlelight Concert is always special. The 3 performances are the hottest ticket in town. For parents, other Westporters and alumni who attend, it marks the true start of the holiday season.

The coronavirus impacted the concert, as it has every other aspect of life. This year’s event — the 80th annual — went virtual. Choirs, orchestras and bands were recorded earlier this month. Performers and conductors were (of course) masked and socially distanced.

But one of the unexpected and joyful consequences of COVID is that this year’s Candlelight was extra-special.

Ryan Smith used several cameras to tape the performances. Brandon Malin led a superb high school lighting crew. The Staples Music Parents Association’s decorations turned the gym into a concert hall.

With the help of many, you’d never know this was the Staples High School gym. (Photo/Brandon Malin)

I was honored to be asked to conduct interviews with former music instructors and alumni. George Weigle and John Hanulik’s now-grown children, alums like Suzanne Sherman Propp, Shirah Lipson and Jon Gailmor — all provided perspectives, augmented by the current talented, passionate directors.

The Staples musicians were — as always — spectacular. Astonishingly, they had had only one in-person rehearsal a week together — and that was with only half the group. The other half was learning remotely.

Add in the fact that they performed apart from each other — no easy feat — and this truly seems like a holiday miracle.

A screenshot of the orchestra during last night’s livestream.

Nearly 3,500 people logged in to last night’s Candlelight Concert. The total audience probably reached 5 figures, as many viewers watched with family and friends.

They were watching in Westport, of course, but all over the world too — California, France, you name it. We know, because the “chat” function was filled with chatter. Strangers became fast friends, posting memories and praising the current crop of young musicians (and their teachers).

It was something old, something new. It was fresh and different — but there was still the processional, “Sing We Noel,” and the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

It was the Candlelight Concert, COVID -style.

A screenshot of Luke Rosenberg conducting a choral ensemble. (Screenshots courtesy of June Whittaker)

23 responses to “Candlelight Concert Wows Worldwide Audience

  1. Please include Nick Mariconda and Adele Valovich in your article where you list notable past directors. Love the fact that they put in the extra effort to post Candlelight this year! The Music program at Staples sets our district apart from other schools in this area. So glad both my children were part of the Staples Music Program. They did not pursue a life in the arts (choosing to study at Cornell and Marquette in Business and the Sciences) but they now have an intimate (by being a part of performing) and a life long love of classical music, Thank you for posting this wonderful event! I took you advice and ordered local area restaurant takeout too!

  2. Does anyone know if there is a recording available?

  3. The talents of our Staples students and the music department itself have never ceased to amaze me, after almost thirty years living in Westport. As we tuned in last night, I worried about the traditional processional Sing We Noel but It was still there, in a different way. So was the Hallelujah Chorus, in a different way. Exquisite production and performances. I am grateful for this annual gift to our community.

  4. John & Kathy Brandt

    Last night’s Candlelight Concert demonstrated that necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, the invention was a delight to behold and allowed a global audience to appreciate the extraordinary music program in the Westport schools. Add to that a superbly articulate music faculty and an equally professional production crew and you have the enhanced gift to the community that is the annual Candlelight Concert. I trust that this on-line enhancement of the tradition will become a tradition in itself. The 80th Candlelight Concert, scripted by our own 06880 author, was another rung on the ladder of excellence at Staples High School. Brava, bravo to all.

  5. Corinne Wohlforth

    Since the concert was prerecorded, can it still
    be seen?

  6. Is it still live somewhere to stream? As a past Choir member under George Weigle and choreography by Gene Bayliss would love to see what it looks like today

  7. Lucy Weberling

    My sister and I, ‘61 and ‘63 staples graduates, watched last night from Skiatook, Oklahoma. It was splendid, as usual- and exceptional in that so many obstacles were overcome due to COVID. I am SO proud to be a Staples alumni- of the band, orchestra , mixed chorus and choir of those years.

  8. Allison Ziering Walmark

    Dan, Your copious and loving work on Candlelight made the entire production flawless. Thanks to the always-dedicated and professional Staples Music Department educators… support staff… talented students… incredible video production… and all those who worked diligently and tirelessly to make the 80th annual Candlelight Concert a shining light, in an otherwise dark year.

  9. Was on the Vimeo app on Apple TV last night but a “Candlelight Concert 2020” search (listed in emailed instructions) came up empty for this show. Didn’t want to watch it on a small phone. Any info on how to watch it now on Apple TV?

    • You can open stream on the vimeo website using the link provided (Dec 24th 2pm/7:30pm) and use airplay to broadcast to AppleTV, Roku, or other SmartTV devices. A new link will be posted on in the next few days.

  10. The recording will be re-broadcast December 24th at 2pm and 7:30pm. Viewing information will be posted to in the next few days. Due to copyright restrictions, we are not able to post the video for download.

  11. Staples has always had an outstanding music program. I’m glad to see them still thriving in the face of all the current difficulties.

  12. It was a wonderful, inspiring evening. A great addition to an otherwise quiet holiday season. Congratulations to all who participated.

  13. What a great show. As I watched, I was reminded, yet again, of how incredibly fortunate I was to grow up in Westport, and take part in something like this. And though it’s been over 40 years (!) still remembered every word. It’s hard to sing while crying, though….

  14. Roy and Jackie Fuchs

    Dan — Fabulous concert, great job by you!

  15. Karin Giannitti

    Amazing with what they had to work with. They had me with Sing We Noel and cried like a baby at the Hallelujah Chrorus. So many wonderful memories.

  16. Margaret Hart Rynshall

    What an extraordinary experience! While the chat option was a great way for many to connect, it also provided helpful insider details that I really appreciated. Everything about it was superb. Thanks to all who made this possible and for keeping the Candlelight tradition going.

  17. Eileen Siegfried

    Upload on YouTube?

  18. Please post the link for the 12/24 rebroadcast.