1971 Staples High School graduate Brian Keane has composed the music for hundreds of films and television shows, produced over 100 albums, and earned Grammys, Emmys and Peabodys. He’s worked closely with Ric Burns on most of his groundbreaking documentaries.
Brian did not write the music for his holiday video this year. He just plays guitar on 2 familiar songs.
But this is one of his most powerful works ever. It reminds us how tragic 2020 was.
And how much hope we still have, as a new year beckons.
Posted onDecember 24, 2020|Comments Off on Weather Beginning To Look NOT A Lot Like Christmas
Because this is 2020, Christmas Eve and Day will be treacherous.
Winds will blow from 25 to 35 miles an hour; gusts may howl past 50. The strongest gusts are expected between 2 and 9 a.m.
Rain will pour down — 2 to 4 inches. It will be heaviest in the predawn hours.
With temperatures in the 50s, that means tons of melting snow.
So be prepared for flooding and wet basements, along with downed trees, flying furniture and (of course) power outages.
Sconset Square prepares for Deadman’s Brook to overflow. (Photo/Mark Mathias)
Westport will open its emergency operations center at Fire Department headquarters at 6 p.m. That mirrors Eversource’s start time for their on-call apparatus. They’ve already called in out-of-state help.
Could this be a repeat of Tropical Storm Isaias 4 months ago?
Back then, trees were in full leaf. They acted like sails on a boat, causing most of the uprooted damage.
This time it’s the weakened trees that will fall. Most of the damage this time will come from weak branches that fall — and pine trees.
Be safe. Be smart. And charge your devices.
Comments Off on Weather Beginning To Look NOT A Lot Like Christmas
Since 1966 Westporters have celebrated Christmas by gathering together, drinking egg nog, and watching a film loop of a fire burning in a fireplace.
This COVID year — 54 years after it began — the “Yule Log” is more important than ever. With family gatherings smaller, and few options for leaving the house, we’ll take comfort in one old tradition that’s easy to enjoy.
The traditional Yule log …
And we owe it all to a Westporter of yore: Fred Thrower.
According to Wikipedia — which is usually pretty right, most of the time — Fred was president and CEO of WPIX, Inc.
Inspired by an animated Coca-Cola commercial a year earlier that showed Santa Claus at a fireplace, he envisioned this television program as a televised Christmas gift to those residents of “The Big Apple” who lived in apartments and homes without fireplaces. This also provided time for employees of the TV station to stay home with their families, instead of working for the usual morning news program.
The original film was shot at Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the Mayor of New York City John Lindsay. An estimated US $4,000 of advertising (along with a roller derby telecast that night) was canceled on Christmas Eve for the show’s inaugural airing.
Thrower, and WPIX-FM programming director Charlie Whittaker selected the music, largely based on the easy listening format the radio station had at that time, with the likes of Percy Faith (whose rendition of “Joy to the World” is played at the beginning and the end of the telecast), Nat King Cole, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Mantovani, and the Ray Conniff Singers to name a few.
During the shoot, the producers removed a protective fire grate so that the blaze could be seen to its best advantage. Unfortunately, a stray spark damaged a nearby antique rug valued at $4,000.
The “show” was a ratings success. Two years later a new, less jerky, longer (6 minutes, 3 seconds) version was filmed.
For decades the Yule Log quietly, unassumingly, lovingly thrived.
… and a 3D version.
WPIX is now owned by E.W. Scripps. But the show goes on: tomorrow, Christmas Day, from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.
The coronavirus has taken so much from us. Thankfully, anyone in the tri-state area can still enjoy this quaint, odd tradition, created by a long-ago Westport neighbor.
And if your family can’t gather here the traditional way, don’t worry. Just grab an iPad, and watch together, virtually.
2020 has obviously been a unique and challenging year in Westport, the nation, and the world. We remember those among us who have been negatively impacted by this horrible pandemic, and we send them our healing thoughts and prayers.
In their honor, I respectfully request that you enjoy Christmas and New Year’s with only those in your immediate household, foregoing travel and large gatherings. Instead, I encourage you to stay safe and stay at home. By doing so, I’m confident that by this time next year, we’ll again be able to gather together in person to recall, rejoice and reaffirm our holiday traditions.
This Christmas season, I wish you the calm and peace that is at the heart of good will and generous spirits.
(Card created by Bonnie Marcus)
And this year in particular, I hope that you have the chance to slow down and thoughtfully reflect on the true meaning of this time in our collective human experience. To quietly celebrate, and to rest. Perhaps take the opportunity to initiate new traditions in your family.
And to reach out – virtually or physical distanced – to a neighbor, relative or friend who may be alone, in need, or less fortunate. Remember, small acts of kindness can have a huge impact.
However you choose to celebrate and worship this year, on behalf of the town of Westport, I wish you a happy and joyful holiday season with your immediate family.
Please continue to be healthy and safe. The proactive behaviors that you take today will insure that our families, friends and neighbors will be here to happily celebrate what I know will be a renewed and uplifting 2021.
Jerri Graham is a noted Westport photographer. She hasn’t felt the holiday spirit for a while. Recently, she was especially Grinchy. But, she writes …:
While around us the world spins, there are those going the extra mile to make the holidays a bit more magical. They decorate with a level of flair that should be appreciated.
Noya Jewelry Design (18 Riverside Avenue) has upped their game this year with a “Nutcracker”-inspired window display that spills over into the interior decor.
Owner Natalie Tortay started talking about decorating for Christmas back in September. I never suspected my Israeli Jewish landlord and mentor would be a Mrs. Claus in disguise.
But, she says, “I lived in Europe for many years. Christmas decorating is taken seriously. You don’t just string lights.”
I thought she was kidding about “doing it up” for Christmas, until she asked for the name of a set designer. I knew Alicia D’Anna builds exhibits for the Westport Museum for History & Culture, and has bad-ass ways with a table saw. She’s also worked for years on sets for Staples Players.
The women met, along with Alicia’s partner in design, Broadway’s Jordan Janota. Together hey flushed out Natalie’s vision.
From left: Jordan Janota, Natalie Tortay, Alicia D’Anna. (Photo/Jerri Graham)
I asked Natalie why she went through the expense of decorating her windows and store for the holidays, while we’re all experiencing trying times.
“It’s because we are in these times that I have to do it,” she said. “It makes me happy, it looks beautiful for people passing by, and it gives artists work. I’m happy.”
Alicia worked in her converted Westport workshop with Jordan. They brought to life the storyboard they’d presented just a week before. With techniques they’d used on the stage here and in New York, they carved out a bit of theatrics.
Jordan Janota, at work in Noya.(Photo/Jerri Graham)
“Natalie is giving the town joy! She isn’t just decorating her store for the holidays; she’s giving our community an experience,” Alicia said as she painted a foam scoop of ice cream bright pink.
The designers created quite a scene in 2 windows. Ballet slippers suggest an invisible foot dance beneath a tutu, surrounded by snow-covered trees and glittery packages.
One of Noya’s windows, with ballet shoes and a tutu. (Photo/Jerri Graham)
At night I’ve smiled as I see little girls with their faces pressed to the window. A jewelry designer turned her store into a studio, where artists created a set for minds to dance.
Though we live in dark times with the shine of the season dimmed, the windows of Noya offers a little glimmer of hope we can all use.
(Noya Jewelry Design is on the west bank of the Saugatuck River, just over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.)
A little girl looks in Noya’s window. (Photo/Kami Evans)
Okay, so maybe you didn’t win the town’s 4th of July house decorating contest.
Or the Halloween one.
Hey: The 3rd time’s the charm.
Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department is sponsoring its first-ever Winter Holiday House Decorating Contest.
People can decorate the outsides of their homes to show a winter theme, or any holiday they celebrate.
Registration must be done first (click here). Then submit no more than 5 photos or videos of your decorations to email@example.com by December 20. Prizes will be awarded for the top 3 entrants.
And if you don’t win this time, maybe they’ll do a Presidents Day house decorating contest …
One of the first houses decorated in Westport this year. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)
Congratulations to Westport’s newest grandfather: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.
He announced before last night’s RTM meeting that his daughter Samantha gave birth hours earlier at Greenwich Hospital. Charles James Sandor weighs 6 pounds, 13 ounces — and brought his grandparents great joy.
Jim and Mary Ellen Marpe, with their daughter Samantha in 2017.
And finally … happy 59th birthday to Def Leppard guitarist Rick Savage.
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