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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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:
Hundreds of alumni — from as far away as California, and as long ago as the 1950s — poured in to the Staples High School auditorium, for last night’s 75th anniversary Candlelight Concert.
At the end of the emotional evening, they poured onto the stage for Staples’ largest-ever “Hallelujah Chorus.” In addition to the traditional choral singers, several former orchestra members brought their instruments on stage too.
Candlelight has inspired musicians and concert-goers for three-quarters of a century. Here’s to the next 75!
Wellington Baumann holds his candle proudly, during the “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
The timeless “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Among the programs on display was this. The 2nd verse of “Sing We Noel” is no longer sung — making it a lost verse from a carol that (except for Staples) is now quite obscure. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
Dr. Robert Kwan accompanied the chorus and chorale. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
Vocal director Luke Rosenberg asks his chorale to take a bow. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
Adele Valovich’s orchestra wowed the audience with 2 selections from “Coppelia Ballet.” (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
Nick Mariconda’s band added a big brass sound. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
World music is an important part of Candlelight. The African song “Noel” included rhythmic clapping by the a cappella choir. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
Don Rickenback’s original production number included this Santa “Grinch.” (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
David Ohanian — son of Candlelight founder John Ohanian, and himself a world renowned French horn player — guest-conducted the orchestra for the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Former choral director Alice Lipson did the same honors with the vocalists. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
Alumni joined current singers and orchestra members for a memorable “Hallelujah Chorus.” Click on or hover over this (and every) photo for the full effect. (Photo/Kerry Long)
A program from 1958 — just one thread in an unbroken string of memorable Candlelight Concerts, from 1940 to 2015. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
Bonus feature: Joe Pucci’s video of the “Hallelujah Chorus:
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