Tag Archives: Luke Rosenberg

Pics Of The Day #781

In just 4 years, the Westport Schools’ Music Department Pops Concert has become one of the true highlights — and must-have tickets — of the spring.

The choruses, bands and orchestras are phenomenal. The Levitt Pavilion locale is stupendous. The evening is warm — in both the weather and community senses of the word.

It’s a sure sign that summer is almost here.

And that this is a town that loves and supports music, in all its forms.

A variety of chamber groups entertained early arrivals…

… as did the very talented Middle School Percussion Ensemble, playing traditional rhythms of Senegal.

A small part of the large Levitt Pavilion crowd.

The Westport Police Department color guard. (Photo/Tomas Curwen)

Symphonic and jazz band leader Nick Mariconda retires this year, after 41 years with the Westport schools. He was honored at his final concert.

Three of Mariconda’s former students — Jon Owens ’86, Andrew Willmott ’85 and Michael Ances ’90 — came back. They played trumpet — Mariconda’s instrument — on “Bugler’s Holiday.” All are now music educators.

Between sets, Staples musicians hung out by the river.

First Selectman Jim Marpe, interim superintendent of schools Dr. David Abbey and former Staples High School principal/Pops emcee John Dodig enjoyed the show.

The Orphenians wowed the crowd with selections like “And So It Goes” and “Unclouded Day.”

Orphenians director Luke Rosenberg.

Another view of the great crowd. (All photos/Dan Woog unless otherwise noted)

Unsung Heroes #101

This Unsung Heroes post started with a request to honor one Bedford Middle School music teacher: Lou Kitchner.

A parent praised him for his “innate passion for music, and the power music can have on an individual child.” She mentioned his special ability to make each student feel special; his utter devotion to his craft, and the youngsters he works with; his ability to reach each at their own level, and help them reach far beyond whatever they thought was possible.

Lou Kitchner

Mr. Kitchner certainly deserves those kudos. But Westport is fortunate to have many other superb music educators too. Each one — from elementary school teachers like Greens Farms’ Suzanne Sherman Propp, to Staples’ Luke Rosenberg, Carrie Mascaro and Nick Mariconda (who retires this year, after more than 40 years as band leader) — earns well-deserved praise and love from students and parents.

So — 2 days before the Westport music department’s 4th annual Pops Concert (a sellout, as always) — “06880” hails the entire town’s band, orchestra and vocal teachers as Unsung Heroes.

Luke Rosenberg, Carrie Mascaro and Nick Mariconda at the 2018 Candlelight Concert.

But I kept thinking about Lou Kitchner and his Bedford band. This has been a very tough year for his school — and of course Coleytown Middle too. Teachers from 2 schools were suddenly thrown together, in 1 building. Overnight, they had to adapt to an entirely new situation.

With incredible hard work, they got it done. Administrators and staff members — teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, you name it — did whatever they had to to serve their students. (The same thing happened at Staples High, with Coleytown’s 8th graders.)

Spaces and resources were shared. Schedules were worked out. Everyone compromised. The school year went on.

That teamwork was never more evident than on Memorial Day. The Bedford and Coleytown bands marched together. Their numbers were huge. Their sound was impressive. Walking proudly — in front of, behind, and among them — were music teachers from both schools.

The Bedford and Coleytown Middle School bands combined this year. Hundreds of young musicians sounded great — and very together! (Photo/Sarah Tamm)

So everyone who had any part in making the Coleytown/Bedford/Staples transition work this year is an Unsung Hero too.

That’s a lot of heroes. But it takes a village to educate a child.

We bang the drum for all of you.

Nick Massoud: A Whiffenpoof Comes To Westport

Last year, Nick Massoud was a Spizzwink.

Singing with Yale University’s elite 13-member a cappella group, he performed in Europe, China, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hawaii, Iowa — and before a sold-out, hometown audience at Westport’s Seabury Center.

What could Nick possibly do for an encore?

Poof!

Back in his Staples High School days, when he was looking at colleges, Nick heard the Whiffenpoofs sing. They were a major reason he decided to apply to Yale — and, once accepted, to attend.

Self-described as “the world’s oldest and best-known collegiate a cappella group” — which is probably true — the Whiffs are 14 seniors who leave school for a year. They travel the world, singing for alumni clubs, schools and organizations, and in public concerts.

The 1913 Whiffenpoofs.

(They have a fondness for nursing homes too. During World War II, Whiffs’ songs hit the pop charts. Many current nursing home residents learned those tunes then — or heard them from their parents.)

Cole Porter was a Whiff. So was Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush, father of one US president and grandfather of another.

Obviously, you don’t just sign up and join. The audition process is rigorous.

Nick Massoud

Last spring, Nick auditioned with a solo rendition of “Mona Lisa.” Then he sang a Whiff standard — “Shall I, Wasting in Despair?” — to see how well his baritone blended with other voices.

Then came another hour-long interview — because Nick was auditioning not only as a singer, but for the role of business manager. He’d done that with the Spizzwinks, so he already had experience organizing a world tour.

The Whiffs loved Nick’s voice, and his business plan. They liked his responses too to questions about how he’d deal with the media. This is a big moment in the group’s 110-year history: For the first time ever, there is a female Whiff.

Once he was “tapped” for membership, it was an easy decision to defer his studies for a year. Nick says his parents were supportive — “maybe even jealous” — about his opportunity to travel the globe, singing, “before I start an un-musical job for the rest of my life.”

Nick has mapped out an arduous schedule for the Whiffs. Four major tours take them to 15 countries, on 6 continents.

The 2019 Whiffenpoofs. Nick Massoud is kneeling, on the right.

Right now, they’re in the midst of winter performances. They’re booked in Denver, Dallas, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco — and Westport.

The local performance is set for Saturday, February 2 (5 p.m., Christ &  Holy Trinity Church).

On February 14, Nick brings his group back to town again. They’ll perform at Staples — his alma mater — for his former teacher Luke Rosenberg’s choirs and choruses. Staples Players will be there too — Nick was a noted actor, back in the day — and English teacher Brian Tippy may bring his classes. After all, he’s a former Whiff.

So is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg. Who knew?

When they’re not singing, the Whiffenpoofs enjoy local attractions. In Boulder, they went hiking. Nick Massoud is 5th from left.

As Steinberg, Tippy and Prescott Bush prove, there is life after Whiffenpoofs. So what will Nick do, when he returns as a senior next fall?

He’s a global affairs major. He interned last summer with Boston Consulting Group. They’ve already offered him a job in New York, after he graduates.

Boola boola!

(For tickets and information on the Whiffenpoofs’ February 2 Westport concert, click here. In the video below, Nick Massoud is at the far left.)

 

Sing We Noel: Staples’ Spectacular Candlelight Concert

From an achingly beautiful “Stille Nacht” to a stirring Nigerian carol “Betelehemu” — bookended of course by the haunting traditional “Sing We Noel” processional, a hilarious production number and the rousing “Hallelujah Chorus” — last night’s 78th Candlelight Concert was one of the best ever.

Staples High School’s hundreds of singers, orchestra and band members and instructors put their remarkable talents on display, in a packed auditorium. It is the music department’s gift to the town — and no amount of money could provide a finer present.

The Candlelight Concert continues this afternoon and this evening. All tickets for both performances were claimed weeks ago.

(Photo/Paul Einarsen)

Handsome decorations in the Staples High School auditorium lobby.

Chamber musicians play as concert-goers arrived.

Antonio Antonelli carries on the “Sing We Noel” tradition.

The Choralaires’ joyful rendition of “Betelehemu.” Dr. Robert Kwan is the accompanist.

Carrie Mascaro debuts as Staples’ Symphonic Orchestra conductor.

Don Rickenback’s hilarious production number includes a “Fiddler on the Roof”-style introduction about “Tradition” …

… and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s much lesser-known daughter.

Choral director Luke Rosenberg, orchestra conductor Carrie Mascaro and band leader Nick Mariconda take well-deserved bows. (All photos/Dan Woog unless otherwise noted)

Orphenians Bring Down The (Opera) House

Last month, the Staples High School Orphenians traveled to Australia. The elite singing group performed at the Sydney Opera House.

The teenagers are home now, but they’re still talking about it in Westport. I imagine they are in Sydney too.

But you didn’t have to be Down Under to hear their remarkable voices. Here, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, is a video of the entire concert.

The Orphenians’ individual performance — directed by Luke Rosenberg — begins at 23:49.

The combined choirs’ performance, including several other schools — directed by Craig Hella Johnson, one of the most popular conductors in any hemisphere — starts around 55:00. Staples’ rising senior Georgia Wright is featured at 1:45:30.

The Orphenian girls are in the second 2 rows, on both ends. The boys are behind them, in black ties.

(Hat tip: Kerry Foley)

Orphenians: The Wonder Down Under

The Orphenians are back.

Staples High School’s elite a cappella group returned — excited, joyful and (of course) singing — from a magical trip to Australia. 

They spent the past few days telling stories, sharing photos and trying to describe Vegemite. 

Rising senior Sam Gusick was one of the very lucky (and talented) Orphs. He says:

The Australian trip was one of the most amazing experiences I could imagine.

Singing in the Sydney Opera House was easily the best part. We worked with fantastic singers, under esteemed conductor Craig Hella Johnson and one of the most popular American choral composers of our time, Jake Runestad. Working with them on a world premiere felt like we were in the presence of celebrities.

The Orphenians, outside the Sydney Opera House…

The performance at the end included a diverse group of talented singers who created fantastic music, in a space that was beautifully designed to give ensembles the best sound possible.

Throughout rehearsals we did sightseeing, shopping and eating all over Sydney. We learned about its history and culture, and got a great grasp of the thriving city.

… and performing inside.

We then went to the more tropical Cairns. We saw the Great Barrier Reef, and visited a zoo with kangaroos, koalas and many other animals.

But this trip wasn’t just about the places we went. It was a huge bonding experience. We’re all closer and more connected as friends than ever before.

Getting ready to explore the Great Barrier Reef, in Cairns.

It never would have happened without Staples choral director Luke Rosenberg. He is one of the most talented and dedicated individuals I have ever met.

He found this incredible opportunity for us, helped us put together an awesome fundraiser, and made the trip extra-special in a ton of ways for all of us. The Orphs are so lucky to have an incredible leader like “Ro.”

Staples Sings With One Voice

Staples High School’s many choral ensembles — male, female, mixed, from freshmen through elite Orphenians — came together last Friday for a special “One Voice Concert for Unity.”

They sang by themselves and together. There were featured solos, and soaring, intricate group selections. Orphenians performed 2 pieces by Jake Runestad, the heralded composer whose work they’ll showcase this summer in Australia.

And there was a compelling rendition of “Tell My Father,” Sullivan Ballou’s tender Civil War letter to his wife, put to music.

It was an outstanding evening. Just when you think choral director Luke Rosenberg and our town’s teenagers can’t set the bar higher — they do.

(Hat tip: Jim Honeycutt, videographer)

Youth Concert Excites, Inspires And Awes

For decades, the Youth Concert has been a wintertime highlight — for performers and audiences alike.

Over 200 Staples High School students present a multimedia, interdisciplinary thematic show for every Westport 3rd through 6th grader.

Elementary and middle school music teachers prepare their students well. Their kids are engaged and excited.

Many of the Staples musicians on stage remember well their own excitement, sitting in the audience a few years earlier. For some, it sparked their passion for music and the arts.

This year’s theme was “Global Cultures.” And — for the first time ever — there was an encore performance at night, for parents.

Jim Honeycutt — who retired 2 years ago as a Media Lab video production teacher — loves the Youth Concert. He came back this year to tape the evening show.

He produced 2 videos. One includes the multimedia video shown above the performing musicians, on a screen. The other is without it.

Enjoy either (or both). You’ll be amazed at the talents of our high school students.

And — like their young audiences — inspired by the power of music.

(Staples’ Youth Concert musicians were led by Adele Valovich [orchestra], Nick Mariconda [band] and Luke Rosenberg [vocal].)

Cabaret!

Broadway was dark last night. That’s a Monday tradition.

But a capacity crowd at Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall enjoyed an evening of entertainment as show-stopping as anything you’ll see in New York.

Tony Award-winning Kelli O’Hara and “A Bronx Tale” lead Adam Kaplan headlined an all-star cabaret. It was a fundraiser for Staples Orphenians, who travel to Australia this summer for performances and workshops.

Kelli O’Hara, at last night’s cabaret. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

O’Hara — a Westport resident — wowed the crowd with her operatic voice. She was full of praise for Staples’ stellar a cappella group, who she first heard perform last spring, at the Levitt Pavilion.

Standing in the church hall loft, the Orphenians — led by choral director Luke Rosenberg, down below — accompanied O’Hara on 2 compelling numbers.

Kaplan — a 2008 Staples graduate — recalled his days in the music and drama programs. At Elon University, he said, he talked so much about his high school that his friends joked there were 3 levels of performance: “Elon, Broadway, and at the top, Staples.”

Adam Kaplan (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The cabaret also featured Staples grads Clay Singer and Caroline Didelot, and solos by 9 Orphenians.

(Click here for the Orphenians’ GoFundMe page.)

Orphenians Down Under

From the 1960s through the ’90s, Staples’ Orphenians sang in the Virgin Islands, Austria, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, the UK and the Czech Republic.

Nearly 2 decades ago — after his freshman year of high school — Luke Rosenberg’s chorus traveled from Michigan to Europe. The month-long trip made an indelible impression — and sparked a desire to become a choral music teacher.

Today, Rosenberg directs Staples High School’s choral program. So when the Orphenians were invited to Australia, he seized the chance to take the elite a cappella group on its greatest adventure yet.

The 2018 Staples Orphenians

This summer, his singers will spend 4 days in Sydney. They’ll join ensembles from around the world — of all ages — rehearsing with Grammy winner Craig Hella Johnson, conductor of the famous Conspirare ensemble.

The capstone is a performance under Johnson at the Sydney Opera House. Orphenians will sing an eclectic assortment of choral music — including the world premiere of a piece by Jake Runestad.

The group then travels to Cairns. They’ll visit the Great Barrier Reef, a wildlife park and rain forest before returning to Westport.

“We get invitations regularly,” Rosenberg says of his ensemble. “But this one stands out. Craig Hella Johnson is one of the most highly respected and passionate choral composers, arrangers and conductors in the world. People say singing with him is a spiritual experience.”

Providing that experience — and all the others involved in a trip like this — is Rosenberg’s goal. He does not expect every student to have the same reaction he did, years ago in Europe — “they won’t all become music teachers,” he jokes — but he does hope they’ll learn a bit more about the world, and themselves, through music.

Choral director Luke Rosenberg. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Of course, taking a group of teenagers to Australia is not cheap. Orphenians are sponsoring a cabaret with Broadway star/Westporter Kelli O’Hara, and Broadway star/Staples alum Adam Kaplan. It’s already sold out.

There’s also a GoFundMe page (click here).

“06880” is “where Westport meets the world.” This summer, Orphenians are where Staples meets the Sydney Opera House.