Tag Archives: For the Heart

For The Heart, For First Night

I’m a For The Heart groupie.

The Westport-based group of teenagers arranges all their own songs. They harmonize beautifully. And they bring their upbeat music to nursing homes, schools for underprivileged kids, and community events — all for free.

Tonight, For The Heart performed for First Night. They packed Toquet Hall.

If you missed it — no problem. Here are 3 selections — from For The Heart, to you.

Happy New Year!

We (Heart) For The Heart

If you were near the cannons at Westport’s 4th 1st of July fireworks — or clicked a link on “06880” — you were entertained by For the Heart, Westport’s fresh-faced, energetic and mega-talented teenage singing group.

But as great as they sound, their back story is even more inspiring.

Six years ago, Bedford 7th grader Caley Beretta was enjoying Music Theater of Connecticut.  She’d made new friends from throughout Fairfield County.  “We wanted an excuse to get together and sing,” she recalls.  On a whim, they called Westport Health Care Center (formerly Mediplex), and offered to perform.

They sang songs from their favorite musicals, like “Wicked” and “Rent.”

“They loved it, but we had no idea ‘Sound of Music’ would be better,” Caley laughs.

For the Heart -- 2011 version. (Photo by Kerry Long)

They had such a good time — and the feedback was so great — that Caley and her friends googled more assisted living facilities in the area.  They created a song list, borrowed sheet music from MTC, rehearsed in her basement — and before long For the Heart “was legit,” Caley says.

First Night 2006 was their 1st non-elderly show.  The crowd loved them — especially 9-year-old additions Melissa Beretta and Cara McNiff, who sang “Matchmaker.”

For the Heart kept singing.  In 2009 Chris McNiff and a few others went to college.  Caley followed the next year.  Before leaving, she brought in new members.

The newcomers suggested Jake Landau as music director.  Caley calls the rising Staples junior “incredibly talented and dedicated.  He wowed us.”

The 12 members — including Stapleites Amanda Horowitz, Tyler Jent, August Laska, Grace McDavid-Seidner, Michelle Pauker, Emily Ressler and Clay Singer, plus Fairfield Ludlowe’s Steve Autore and Fairfield Warde’s Johnny Shea — form what Caley calls “For the Heart 2.0.”

Like a proud parent, she calls the current group “much more polished.” And, she says, “we now do the right songs for each audience.”

They’ve also amped up their performing schedule.

Right before Christmas, they made a memorable visit to the Westport Health Care Center.

They caroled room to room.  It was an intensely personal experience, at an extremely vulnerable time for the elderly men and women.

Their smiles — and the reactions they get at all their shows — are what keep the For the Heart kids gonig.

A Christmas appearance.

After one performance, a woman told the teenagers that, long ago, she’d been an opera singer.  When the group sang “Anything Goes,” a man said he once directed the show.

(As with all performers, they can’t always please everyone.  One person was very offended that they didn’t know “Go Tell it on the Mountain” at Christmastime.)

One of For the Heart’s most memorable gigs was at a Bridgeport after-school program.  The children sang along with Disney songs — and when the teenagers came off the stage to join them in the audience, the youngsters went wild.

This year, the group hopes to sing for new audiences.  Children’s hospitals are high on their list.

Working around active teenagers’ schedules is not easy.  But — despite commitments to their theater and choral groups, schoolwork, SAT courses and the bajillion other things kids today do — the members make For the Heart a high priority.

They sing 15 to 18 selections each show — and they learn new songs for every performance.  The fireworks marked their 40th concert.

So how much money does For the Heart make?

Not a penny.

Every show is free.

In fact, they pay to perform.  Sheet music purchases are a collective effort.

They carpool, to save gas.  They borrow music stands.  And, they note, both MTC and Staples Players director David Roth have been very helpful.

They’ve talked about a fundraising concert at Toquet Hall.  But, Caley says, “what’s great is that this is not about money.  It’s to do a show, and make people smile.”

“It’s all about the joy,” Amanda says.  “It’s just fun.  It makes me happy.”

Grace is gratified by the audience’s smiles.  “It’s so great when they sing along, and then ask us to come back.”

“It’s so great to talk to some of the elderly audiences,” Melissa adds.  “We hear their memories, and they tell us about when they performed or went to the theater.”

Caley knows that many of her talented performers will go on to accomplish great things, in a variety of venues.

But, she says, “it’s nice to get applause on a high school stage, or sing in a big concert, and 2 weeks later get up with your friends, and perform in jeans in some cafeteria.”

Those performances truly come From the Heart.

(Click below for a few of For the Heart’s greatest hits from the recent Compo Beach fireworks show.)

Happy 1st Of July Fireworks!

Always ahead of the curve, Westport celebrated the 4th of July with early fireworks last night. 

It was a Friday.  The sky was deep blue; the temperature was perfect.  The sunset was gorgeous.

This is why we live in Westport.

The calm before the storm. Except there was no storm -- only gorgeous weather and festive crowds.

Okay, it wasn't all perfect. There was plenty of "saving spots" -- despite regulations against the practice.

Parks and Rec director Stuart McCarthy earned his pay, collecting tickets at the entrance to Compo. Most drivers -- like this one -- were in a festive mood. Some had attitudes. Westport has its share of Very Special People.

The light and colors were fantastic yesterday. This is my iPhone camera; imagine what a real photographer could have captured.

Compo Beach was like an Arab souk yesterday. Everything 4th of July-related was for sale -- with proceeds going to the PAL.

Back in the day, a 4th of July picnic meant sandwiches in a hamper. Now everyone feasts on international cuisine. Hot dogs, anyone?

Ned Batlin and Serenety Dobson -- 2 of the many police officers, EMTs and other personnel keeping the crowds safe.

Soundview Drive is one place to be for the fireworks. The woman on the balcony is conducting a fife and drum corps, which entertained along the closed-to-traffic road.

Old-time Westporters -- and a young police officer -- enjoy the evening.

A sparkler, a glowing necklace, a beach and fireworks -- it doesn't get any better for a kid.

Special treat:  For The Heart — Westport’s great group of young, community-minded singers — gave a great concert by the cannons.  Click the video below to watch them perform “Life is a Highway.”