Candlelight And Beethoven: Merry Christmas!

2021 was a difficult year. But as dark as things seem, we always have music.

Here in Westport, we’re particularly lucky. We have the Staples High School music department. Each year, they give us a gift: the Candlelight Concert.

This year — the 81st — was particularly welcome.

Despite the challenges — including Omicron and mask mandates — the concert was astonishing. It might be the best ever.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch the combined instrumental and orchestral version of Beethoven’s Fantasie for Piano, Choir and Orchestra Op. 80 for yourself.

Starting slowly, then building to a stunning crescendo, it features senior Sasha Maskoff’s remarkable piano solo.

Vocal soloists include Sophia Betit, Shanti Wimmer, Jackiei Peterson, Sydney Gusick, Emily Desser Lauranne De Vos, Samuel Betit, Peter Macris, James Dobin-Smith, Zach Berman, Jeffrey Pogue and Ryan Porio.

Seven days from the end of a terrible year, these 12 minutes will convince you that this is — still — a very beautiful world.

(Kudos to Jim Honeycutt, who taped and produced this video.)

15 responses to “Candlelight And Beethoven: Merry Christmas!

  1. I love this piece, and they did a great job! Thank you Dan for sending it out!

  2. charles taylor

    Brought tears to my eyes! Loved this memory and the talent. Whew amazing young people!

  3. Gorgeous! Merry Christmas Dan!

  4. Absolutely wonderful 12 minutes, thank you for sharing!

  5. Wow. Thank you!

  6. Stunningly beautiful. Always in awe of the talent of Staples’ students. Thank you!

  7. Staples; truly the crown jewel of Westport.

  8. Laurie brannigan

    It was so good and love that you’re sharing it here for all to hear, especially for those who couldn’t go. Such a special concert it was! Merry Christmas!

  9. Lauren barnett

    Brought tears to my eyes all over again. Even on a tiny phone screen they blew me away. Thx, Dan. Thx Ro. Thx to these incredible kids. And thx to Jim for capturing it.

  10. Special thanks to Westport MoCA for letting Staples use their Steinway piano. It is an increadible instrument and allowed this piece to truly shine. Bravo students and staff!!

  11. Wow.. What a talented group of students! Thanks for sharing Dan!

  12. Some fifty years ago, I played (oboe) in a performance of the “Choral Fantasy” with the Norwalk Youth Symphony. It was a high point of my high-school music career. But never would I have ever imagined that the (then) far smaller Staples Orchestra could have attempted the work. Bravo for this stunning and inspiring performance! Congratulations to piano soloist Sasha Maskoff, the vocal soloists, the orchestra, the chorus, and the Staples Music Department. And many thanks for making the video available for those who missed the live performance or the one broadcast of the entire concert.

  13. Marina Evenstein

    Thank you for this wonderful article, Dan. Thank you to Mr Honecutt for great video and editing work! As a mom of a piano soloist (Sasha Maskoff) I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity for her to play with the orchestra and choirs. It was an honor and privilege for her. As a pianist you don’t get many of these opportunities in high school, and especially during Covid era (some were crushed by Covid). This had been a tremendous gift of our music teachers at Staples and amazing and talented students. Kudos to all, and especially to Luke Rosenberg who masterminded and conducted this piece, thank you for always aspiring these kids to do amazing work. So much rehearsal time, hard practice, and love went into this for sure. It was beautiful and we are thankful. This was the best Candlelight ever(although I am not objective this year having two kids in it). Happy Holidays, everyone!!!! PS. and yes, so thankful for that MOCA Steinway to be brought to Staples for this. Amazing instrument.

  14. dorothy giannone

    In tears and completely blown away by this amazing group of youngsters. so beautiful and so talented. BRAVO

  15. Oh my goodness, the great memories of playing 2nd, then 1st Violin 1979-1982 in the Staples High School at the Candlelight Concerts are some of my fondest memories. Til this day, Korsikoff’s “Russian Easter,” that earned the orchestra a very long standing ovation, and the full blown presentation of, “Its The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, ” performed by the orchestra, choir, and complete wirh a realistic looking Santa coming thru the isles carrying beautifully wrapped boxes looking like gifta. Thank you, Mrs. Dorothy Straub and Mr. Bob Hanulik, and Dr. Valenti (my Director at the University Of Bridgeport) for pouring soop much time into me, and believing in me. Absolute top morxj Muisc Program. So VERY GLAD to see that the tradition carries on!!!😊💕💕🎻🎶