Tag Archives: Luke Rosenberg

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.

Sing We Noel…

The 77th annual Candlelight Concert debuted last night in the Staples High School auditorium. It’s the music department’s gift to the town. Performances are also set for this afternoon and evening.

As it has for more than three-quarters of a century, Candlelight was beautiful, magical and meaningful.

And the light snow just added to the wonder.

Photographer Lynn U. Miller was there to capture the scenes.

For 77 years, Candlelight has featured the lovely “Sing We Noel” processional.

The orchestra performed a stunning “Swan Lake” …

… and orchestra director Adele Valovich took a well-deserved bow.

Candlelight included the symphonic and sophomore bands, led by Nick Mariconda, as well as a variety of choral groups.

Luke Rosenberg directs the Choralaires (formerly the a cappella choir).

Don Rickenback wrote a jolly, North Pole-themed production number.

It wouldn’t be Candlelight without Alice Addicks.

In addition to the traditional “Cans for Candlelight” food drive, members of the Tri-M music honor society collected donations to rebuild music libraries in Texas schools, lost this fall to Hurricane Harvey.

Click below to hear the rousing “Hallelujah Chorus” finale:

(All photos and video/Lynn U. Miller)

Nick Massoud’s Spizzwinks Circle The Globe — And Find Westport

There are nearly 20 a cappella groups at Yale University.

With his strong musical background at Staples High School, Nick Massoud could have auditioned for any. But he was drawn to the Spizzwinks.

The group offered something unique: During each member’s 3 years, they tour all 6 inhabited continents. And they perform in each member’s hometown.

Nick Massoud

Music was always part of Massoud’s life. He played in Betsy Tucker’s Long Lots steel band. He sang in musicals at Bedford Middle School, and with Staples Players.

Orphenians — the high school’s elite singing group — became his family.

Two years ago, director Luke Rosenberg’s group was invited to San Francisco. They sang at Chanticleer’s National Choral Festival. As they drove around the city and out to the redwood forest, they kept singing.

Massoud — who was also involved in Wreckers InTune, the debate team and JSA, and served as president of Top Hat Tutors — realized he could not give up music in college.

Spizzwinks are no part-time commitment. Last year they performed 97 concerts, at schools, nursing homes, churches and clubs. The non-profit choir is entirely student run. Members plan international tours, raise money, and handle logistics.

The Spizzwinks sing for Joe Biden and John Kerry. Nick Massoud is in the center — wearing a blue Yale tie.

“I saw an opportunity to use a lot of the skills I picked up running Top Hat, in a musical setting to facilitate 2 things I love: traveling, and singing with friends,” Massoud says.

Now, as a junior majoring in global affairs — with a concentration in international development — he is the group’s business manager.

He’s performed with them in China, Europe, New Zealand, Indonesia, Iowa, Hawaii and Alaska. They’ve sung for Joe Biden, John Kerry, the Italian prime minister, China’s vice premier, Lady Gaga and Melania Trump.

The Spizzwinks and Lady Gaga snap a selfie.

This year they’re scheduled for Morocco, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.

This month, he brings the Spizzwinks to Westport.

Sure, every member hosts the group at some point. But Massoud thinks the concerts in his home town are special.

“Having met so many people in college, I realize that growing up in a place that supports the arts so significantly is rare,” he says.

“Thinking back on it, it’s crazy that we could sell out the Staples auditorium 7 or 8 times for shows. It says a lot about our community. I’m excited to show my closest college friends the support Westport gives to the arts.”

The Westport schedule is packed. There’s an evening concert at Assumption Church (details in the poster above), a performance and master class at Bedford, and a session with the Staples choir.

That does not allow much time for Massoud to show off Westport. However, he will make sure to take the Spizzwinks to Sherwood Diner.

That’s where he and his fellow Players headed after every show — often in full makeup.

Massoud has traveled the globe with his group. However, he says, “bringing the Spizzwinks to my home, and showing them my community, feels like the most important thing I’ve done with them.

“I can’t wait to introduce them to some of my friends, and to the amazing, inspiring arts teachers in our schools.”

(Click here for the Spizzwinks’ new album, “Hometown.” Click below for their version of “Cry Me a River” — featuring Nick Massoud.)

 

Luke Rosenberg: “I Get To Make Music With Young People Every Day”

Friday night’s choral concert at Staples High School was typical.

That is, typically spectacular.

Scores of teenagers — representing 6 different ensembles, including Orphenians — sang a wide variety of difficult, inspiring and beautiful pieces. The theme was “Arise”; the songs carried the audience from early morning to late night.

The entire concert — from concept to the selection of music — was designed by student officers.

But the best part came at the end.

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

Choral director Luke Rosenberg stood to honor the 29 graduating seniors. They prepared to introduce themselves, and describe what’s next. (A who’s who of great colleges, with majors ranging from musical theater and stage management to biophysics and political science.)

First though, Rosenberg took the mic.

In an emotion-choked voice, he said:

“I get to make music with young people every day. I fall in love with these kids. Then they get old, and go away.

“I want them to grow up and do great things. But it’s bittersweet.”

Rosenberg then described why he loves what he does — and why it is important.

His goal is not to create 30 or 40 music majors. “Quite frankly,” he quipped, “there are not enough jobs.”

Rather, music is “something they can love, and be part of for the rest of their lives.”

Then — proving his point — when Rosenberg was done, and the 29 seniors had taken their bows, the Orphenians took center stage one more time.

With senior Jacob Leaf conducting, they sang a stunning version of “Ave Maria.”

They’d prepared it on their own — just for Luke Rosenberg.

Click below to see Luke Rosenberg’s full speech. It was filmed by Tom Malin — father of graduating senior Madison Malin — and edited by her brother Brandon.