Tag Archives: Candlelight Concert

Candlelight Concert CDs Now On Sale

If you were at Friday’s Candlelight Concert, you know it was one of the best in the 73 years the music department has been presenting this “gift to the town.”

If you had tickets to Saturday’s performances (or no longer live near Westport, but miss Candlelight greatly), you can only imagine what you missed.

Now — through the magic of the Staples Media Lab — you can listen to the 2013 Candlelight Concert forever. Or at least until CDs become obsolete.

Ordering info is below. But first, a back story that makes this year’s recording even more impressive.

The "Sing We Noel" processional has been part of every Candlelight Concert since 1940. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The “Sing We Noel” processional has been part of every Candlelight Concert since 1940. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Since 2001, audio production teacher Jim Honeycutt has produced Candlelight CDs. It’s an arduous task, but he does it because he loves the music, the young musicians and the tradition. Proceeds help fund the Media Lab.

He and senior Alex Fasciolo began to record the CD 4 days before the Friday Candlelight Concert. The next day, they lost 4 hours of recording time when school was canceled because of snow.

Honeycutt spent the next 2 days frantically preparing the CD for sale on Friday night. He and others were in the school until 11 p.m. Thursday, mixing sound for the production number. The next day, he began burning the CDs.

It not only sounds great — Honeycutt thinks the recording is the best ever — but art student Sophia Henkels’ cover is gorgeous too.

At Friday’s concert, Honeycutt had 4 of the 2001 CDs for sale, plus others from each year since. Former students and their parents were happy to replenish their supply.

But then came Saturday’s snow. Honeycutt now has a slew of CDs — and Candlelight has a ton of fans who never heard the concert.

Click below for an 8-minute sampler — or click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.

CDs are $15 each. Students can purchase them at the Staples Media Lab (Room 450, near the cafeteria). To order by mail, send a check for $15 (made out to “Staples High School”) to: Jim Honeycutt, Staples Media Lab, Staples High School, 70 North Avenue, Westport, CT 06880. Please include your name, address, phone and email.

Questions? Call 203-341-1380, or email jim_honeycutt@westport.k12.ct.us

Candlelight Concerts Canceled Today

Both afternoon and evening performances of tonight’s Candlelight Concerts have been canceled, due to weather. Unfortunately, no alternate dates were available.

Fortunately, Staples audio production teacher Jim Honeycutt recorded the final rehearsal. Information on how to buy CDs — and when to listen to it on WWPT-FM — will be posted on “06880” when it is available.

For photos of last night’s performance — and a link to a video of the “Hallelujah Chorus” — click here.

Candlelight concert

(Christmas) Music To Our Ears

If you’ve had it up the wazoo with chestnuts and the friggin’ fire — but still yearn for Christmas music — you’re in luck.

WWPT-FM (90.3 “Wrecker Radio”) is airing this year’s Candlelight Concert, now through Wednesday. You’ll hear beautiful, sophisticated music, lovingly played and sung.

Candlelight Concert 2012 - Staples High School

As an added bonus, the Candlelight Concert alternates on WWPT with “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This “old-time radio broadcast” — a combined effort of Staples Players and the audio production class — is a must-listen, too.

Will Haskell, Keleigh Brockman and Bryan Gannon intently perform "It's a Wonderful Life."

Will Haskell, Keleigh Brockman and Bryan Gannon intently perform “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Not home for the holidays? No problem! Click here to listen live.

For a different Christmas sound, click here or on the YouTube link below:

It’s the Princeton Nassoons, who performed Thursday night at the Seabury Center.

Alan Southworth — a Staples grad, now president of the famed a cappella group — is shown at the beginning of the video presenting flowers to his mother, Fran. She then joins her son’s group for a lovely rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “River.”

Merry Christmas!

Hallelujah! (Alumni Version)

A few days ago, I posted a video of a Staples orchestra and choir rehearsal of the Hallelujah Chorus. I stood behind the strings, providing a different sound than most audiences usually hear.

Tonight — at the Candlelight Concert — I was in the middle of the alumni section. Traditionally, at the final performance, former choir members are invited onto the risers to sing the stirring finale.

As usual, dozens accepted choral director Luke Rosenberg’s invitation.  Here’s the joyful result:

(If your browser does not support this link, click here for the YouTube link.)

Warmed By Candlelight

Celebration and solemnity mixed together last night at Staples.

The high school’s 72nd annual Candlelight Concert provided not only its traditional joy, pageantry and warmth, but also a chance for Westporters to gather and reflect on the morning tragedy a few miles north in Newtown.

Principal John Dodig noted that the realization that 20 sets of parents would never again hug their children reinforced the importance of being with “the kids we love.”

Then the healing power of music began.

Choir member Michael Sixsmith was part of the always-evocative "Sing We Noel" processional. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

Choir member Michael Sixsmith was part of the always-evocative “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

The Staples Choir's rendition of "Holy Night, Silent Night" was hauntingly beautiful. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

The Staples Choir’s rendition of “Holy Night, Silent Night” was hauntingly beautiful. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

The choir's traditional production number included -- as usual -- reindeer. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

The choir’s traditional production number included reindeer. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

Santa, elves, the choir, chorus, chorale and orchestra joined in a magnificent "Hallelujah Chorus" finale. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

Santa, elves, the choir, chorus, chorale and orchestra joined in a magnificent “Hallelujah Chorus” finale. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

New choral director Luke Rosenberg and veteran orchestra conductor Adele Valovich take bows after last night's Candlelight Concert. Nick Mariconda's band also played magnificently. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

New choral director Luke Rosenberg and veteran orchestra conductor Adele Valovich took bows after last night’s Candlelight Concert. Nick Mariconda’s band also played magnificently. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)


From my very 1st Candlelight Concert, way back in 19whatever, I’ve been a huge fan of this Staples High School holiday tradition.

Candlelight 2011. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

Candlelight 2011. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

I’ve never missed a year. And I’ve never not had goosebumps the moment the “Sing We Noel” processional begins.

But until this week, the closest I’ve gotten to the stage was singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” at the final performance with dozens of ecstatic alums.

On Thursday, I was walking in the hall behind the auditorium. Adele Valovich was rehearsing her orchestra; Luke Rosenberg’s choir was singing.

I wandered in, mesmerized. Standing behind the strings and percussion, I heard the “Hallelujah Chorus” in an entirely different way. After all those years, this remarkable work sounded more awesome than ever.


(If your browser does not support YouTube directly, click here for the video. Free tickets for this year’s Candlelight Concert — Fri., Dec. 14 at 8 p.m., Sat. Dec. 15 at 2 and 8 p.m. — are available at Staples’ front desk, until 3 p.m. this week.)

Luke Rosenberg: Staples’ Masterful New Maestro

In some towns, filling the position of choral teacher is a “meh” task.

Westport is not “some towns.”

When Justin Miller suddenly resigned as Staples’ instructor in August — after 2 years on the job — administrators were under the gun. They had to hire someone to oversee the high-profile position — teaching choral music, directing the choir and elite Orphenians, creating memorable music for the Candlelight Concert.

And they had to do it with the school year just a couple of weeks away.

Fortunately, the position was posted the same day Luke Rosenberg expanded his job search to Connecticut.

Luke Rosenberg

The Michigan native had moved to Brooklyn the month before. His spouse had gotten a graphic design job in New York. Neither had ever lived in the city — or knew much about the East Coast.

“I thought finding a job would be easy,” says Rosenberg, who had served as  choral director in Caledonia, a Grand Rapids suburb with a great performing arts program and first-class facility he calls “upper middle class like Westport, but more spread out.”

But there was a hiring freeze in New York City, and leads proved fruitless. Eventually, a friend asked if Luke was looking in Connecticut.

“I had no idea it was so close,” he says.

He saw the just-posted position in Westport. He knew nothing about the town. But he did his research — including reading every page of the school district’s website. Photos of Staples reminded him of Caledonia High (click here to see why). When he interviewed on a Friday, he was prepared.

On Monday he met with superintendent of school Elliott Landon. (That’s proof of the importance Westport places on its choral director.) Almost immediately, he was offered the job.

Rosenberg flew back to Michigan to get his car. He drove east quickly, and saw his choral room for the first time.

There was music to order, a rehearsal schedule to arrange, a program to lead.

The Staples choral program has a rich history. In 2010, the elite group celebrated its 50th anniversary.

One of Rosenberg’s first acts was to add events. A fall “parlor concert” of choral music was added (it’s tonight in the auditorium, at 7:30). A new spring concert will include all the choirs.

Rosenberg also started learning about Staples’ music tradition.  The choral program — including the 72-year-old Candlelight Concert, which flourished under George Weigle and his successor, Alice Lipson — are among the town jewels.

“Tradition is important,” Rosenberg says. “Especially in a close community, it’s important to keep links to the past.” Rest assured, Westport: the blue robes,  “Welcome Yule” processional, production number — all will remain.

However, Rosenberg adds, it’s important for a new director to add his own spin.

He hopes to bring “a sense of Cambridge — like an old English candlelight ceremony” to the concert. “It’s beautiful,” he says. “You want to let the music wash over you.”

The Candlelight Concert is timeless. This shot, from 2011, was taken by Lynn U. Miller — a Staples choir member in the early 1970s.

Rosenberg plans to reintroduce downtown caroling. His singers will carol in New York too, on December 21. And he will add a performance, by Orphenians and the chamber orchestra, of Schubert’s “Mass in G.”

Rosenberg has already made a few changes. He’s opened Orphenians up to all grade levels. (It was previously restricted to juniors and seniors.)

“It’s an awesome ensemble,” he says of the elite traveling choir. “I want to bring in the best musicians — whatever their grade. The better the ensemble, the more enticing it will be to everyone.”

With 33 singers — the most in years — it’s perfectly balanced: 8 basses, 8 tenors, 8 altos and 9 sopranos.

Rosenberg is understated, but his enthusiasm is palpable. “Orphenians can be fantastic,” he says. “They have the potential to blow people out of the water.”

He recently met Alice Lipson, his predecessor. “She’s wonderful,” he notes. “She was so great and helpful, especially with Candlelight.” He has not yet met the legendary Dr. Weigle.

Michael Sixsmith, Mikell Washington and “Santa.”. The Candlelight Concert includes both traditional music and a jazzy production number. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Lipson brought multicultural music to Staples. Rosenberg hopes to expand it. He envisions a spring concert with music from the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America.

He’d also like to resurrect some of the international tours, pioneered by Weigle  and continued by Lipson.

“Change is always difficult,” he acknowledges. His students are “very respectful,” but he could tell in the beginning they were uncertain what lay ahead.

“Once they realized I know what I’m talking about, they understood we can do great things together, and we started working well,” he says. “And once they heard a really good chord locked in, there were goosebumps.”

Westport audiences, he hopes, will feel those goosebumps too.