Tag Archives: Christmas carols

Roundup: Bowtie Cinema, Leveling The Field, Melissa & Doug, More

Movie theaters — remember them?! — are back.

The Bow Tie “Ultimate Royale” multiplex on US 1 — just over the border in Norwalk — reopens tomorrow. Features include “Monster Hunter,” “The Croods,” “Wild Mountain Thyme,” “Elf,” The Midnight Sky,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Honest Thief” and “Tenet.”

The experience will be different than in pre-pandemic days. For example:

  • 100% reserved seating …
  • … but only 50% capacity
  • A temporary waiver of all advanced ticketing fees
  • Selling seats in an alternating pattern so each customer has an empty seat on either side
  • Contact-free purchasing of tickets and concession items
  • Mandatory face masks (unless eating or drinking at your seat)
  • Plexiglas barriers at box office and concession
  • Frequent cleaning
  • Limitations on restroom and lobby capacities.

You can also book a private movie party” for up to 20 guests.

No word on whether you will still pay $22 for a 10-pound box of Jujubes. (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)

Christmas caroling — remember that?! — returns to the Unitarian Church this Saturday (December 19, 3 to 4 p.m.).

It’s COVID-conscious of course: in the large parking lot, with masks and social distancing required.

In Unitarian spirit, there will be a mix of secular songs and Christmas carols. Everyone will use phone flashlights to sing “Silent Night” at dusk. Feel free to bring an instrument too!.

In the holiday spirit, if you want to join but don’t want to actually join people, email events@uuwestport.org for the Zoom link.

Not quite the Unitarian Church parking lot, but you get the idea.

Chloe Hackett is a Staples High School sophomore. She’s an athlete too.

As she and her family searched for a way to help others during the pandemic, they found Leveling the Playing Field. The non-profit seemed perfect.

It collect new and gently used sports and playground equipment, then distribute it to needy youth organizations. And it was founded by Syracuse University alums — Chloe’s parents’ alma mater.

“My sisters and I play field hockey, ice hockey and softball year round,” Chloe says.

“Sports have taught us teamwork, discipline, commitment, determination and how to compete. They’ve given us an after-school outlet, and the opportunity to make friends. We are fortunate to live in an amazing town with so many opportunities, access to a wide variety of sports and the equipment to play them.”

This weekend (Saturday and Sunday, December 19-20, 10 a.m. to noon, at The Granola Bar), the Hacketts are collecting donations.

Cleats, field hockey sticks, lacrosse equipment, bats, hockey skates, footballs, softball gloves — it will all make a difference. Click here for a full list of acceptable and non-acceptable items.

If you can’t make it this weekend, the Hacketts have your back. They’ll leave a box in front of the restaurant, and make pickups daily.

The Hackett girls already have donations! From left: Alex, Chloe, Daisy. (Photo/Julianne Mulvey)

Melissa & Doug — the international toy company, and the Westport couple named the Bernsteins behind it — keep a low profile.

The company (and the couple) do many good things, out of the limelight. Here’s one that deserves notice.

They’ve partnered with the Whole Foods, selling toys in stores and online. Between December 20-24, 1% of sales at Whole Foods will support Whole Kids Foundation’s child nutrition programs.

Stock up on good food and great toys. And help children eat well. Melissa & Doug — and kids you’ll never know — will thank you. (Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)

Westport abstract expressionist painter David Stephen Johnson made his European debut earlier this year.

To share in his good fortune — and do his part to help local first responders — from now through mid-January, he is donating all proceeds of his Works on Paper sales to Norwalk Hospital.

Click here for some of the Works on Paper that make original, thoughtful holiday gifts (and support the community).

More of Johnson’s pieces can be viewed at his Compo Beach studio, by (socially distanced) appointment. Email studio@davidstephenjohnson.com, or call 970- 376-5058.

To see other works, click here or follow hisInstagram page: @david.stephen.johnson.art.

David Stephen Johnson

And finally … on this date in 1865, Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” premiered. The composer died nearly 40 years earlier, from either typhoid fever or syphilis. Just 31, he had composed more than 600 vocal works, 7 complete symphonies, sacred music and operas, along with piano and chamber music.

Warmth Of The Season

Santa brought his sleigh carriage to Main Street today.

He was headed here with reindeer, but the Texas-like temperatures forced the  switch to horses.

Horse carriage - Main Street Christmas 2015

Out in force too were Orphenians, Staples’ elite singing group. They donned their gay apparel — sweaters, scarves and caps — just for show. It was warm.

But you can’t keep a good rendition of “Jingle Bells” down.

After which, a few of director Luke Rosenberg’s carolers hopped in Santa’s carriage for a musical ride.

It’s all a warm-up for next weekend’s Candlelight Concert.

And we do mean warm-up.

Sing A Carol; Set A Record

It’s (almost) that most won-der-ful time of the year.

Yes, Christmas carol season is just over the meadow (and through the woods).

You might love ’em. Or hate ’em.

But you probably never thought Christmas carols would get you in the Guinness Book of World Records.

On Wednesday, December 12 (7 p.m., Compo Beach), a “One Voice” fundraising project organized by the Unitarian Church will attempt to set a record for “the most number of people singing Christmas carols at the same time, door to door.”

Over 250 people are needed to follow a “predetermined, non-strenuous” ½-mile route.

But don’t just think you can show up, dash off a “fa-la-la-la-la” or 2 and slink off. An official Guinness representative will be on hand “to adjudicate and, if successful, declare the new record.”

And plan ahead: Participants must register online no later than December 10. Entrance fees are $10 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 12 years old.

The money benefits the Lily Sarah Grace Fund, which supports the arts in underfunded elementary schools across America. Lily, Sarah and Grace are the 3 young sisters who lost their lives last Christmas Day, when their Stamford home burned to the ground on December 25, 2011.

“Caroling and world records have much in common,” says Jim Keenan, event director and representative of the sponsoring Westport Unitarian Church.

“Most people have never done either, but would secretly like the chance to try. This fun event became something profound when we decided to raise funds for the Lily Sarah Grace Fund.  We love the concept of coming together as one, especially now given all so many have gone through recently.”

Erik Paul, Weston High music director and “One Voice” carol leaders, adds, “Everyone who likes to sing is welcome, but school music programs, church choirs and area glee clubs are especially encouraged to join us. It’s going to be a great night.”

Sounds like fun. Unless, of course, they start to sing that gruesome song about the little kid and his Christmas shoes.

Away In A (Burr Farms) Manger

This Wednesday (December 14, 8 p.m.), Temple Israel hosts a forum on the challenges of “the holiday season” for Jewish and interfaith families.


The event comes a few days after Staples’ Candlelight Concert. A tradition for over 70 years, the event opens — as it always has — with the haunting hymn “Sing We Noel.” It ends — as always — with the “Hallelujah Chorus,” as ebullient and glorious a paean to “the Lord God omnipotent” as you’ll find anywhere.

But traditions change. The Candlelight Concert now includes Hanukkah and African songs, plus other evocative music.  (There’s also a production number filled with schmaltzy Christmas tunes, Santa Claus, reindeer, and the occasional dreidel.)

Georg Friedrich Handel wrote the "Hallelujah Chorus" -- not Hanukkah music.

In fact, for over 2 decades Staples’ choral director was Alice Lipson — whose husband and daughter are rabbis and cantors. Alice conducted the “Hallelujah Chorus” as lustily as anyone — and made certain that, while her students knew they were singing pieces rich in history and beauty, they could opt out if they so chose. None did.

Back at Burr Farms Elementary School in the 1960s, it was all-Christmas, all the time. In music class, we sang only Christmas songs. There was “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph,” sure — but also heavy-duty carols: “Adeste Fidelis.” “Away in a Manger.” “The First Noel.”

I had no idea what I was singing, but no matter. It was beautiful music.

And I got more than a music education at Burr Farms. Our classrooms had Advent calendars. Every kid — Catholics, Christians, Jews and Muslims (just kidding) — thrust hands in the air, begging to be the one to open the window that day.

A big part of my elementary school education.

The big event was a nighttime Christmas concert. Parents, students, younger and older siblings stood outside, in the cold air — around an evergreen tree, decorated with ornaments and topped with an angel — singing carols. I even remember someone pointing out where the Star of Bethlehem might have been, though perhaps that is pushing it.

When the Christmas carols were over we all went into the “cafetorium” for hot chocolate, the only secular part of the night.

I didn’t think twice about any of that. For one thing, I was in 1st or 2nd grade.

For another, we started every day with the Lord’s Prayer.

Over the loudspeaker.

That ended in 1963, when the Supreme Court outlawed prayer in school. I have no idea if there was any discussion about that in Westport — if, in fact, parents knew it was going on, or thought anything about it.

The Westport of my childhood was a multi-religious place. Temple Israel was built in 1959, with a membership of 250 families. We were certainly not Darien, and even at a young age I recall my parents being proud of our town’s pluralism.

But you’d be hard pressed to find any evidence at Burr Farms Elementary School, back in the early ’60s.

Not that anyone noticed. We were too busy exchanging Christmas cards and presents in class.

(For more information on Wednesday’s Temple Israel “celebrating the holidays” event, email amendelson@tiwestport.org, or call 203-227-1293. “Drinks and a nosh” will be provided.)