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.
What happens when a bunch of Staples High School Orphenian graduates — now in college — get together for a multi-generational holiday party, at a beautiful, historic Westport home?
I filmed this last night in Rondi Charleston and Steve Ruchefsky’s wonderful parlor. Staples choral director Luke Rosenberg joins in. And yes, that’s Tony Award winner Jim Naughton making an appearance too.
The video quality is not great. But the music way more than makes up for it.
Last night’s “¡Musica Caliente!” concert was stunning.
Staples High School’s Orphenians, A Cappella Choir, Chorus and Chorale presented more than a dozen songs from places near the equator — Brazil, Bali, India, Puerto Rico, Haiti, East Africa — that were extraordinarily difficult to sing, beautiful in vastly different ways, and inspiringly presented.
It was a superb evening. But the highlight came after choral director Luke Rosenberg spoke movingly of his many seniors — the 1st class he’s seen all the way through Staples, since arriving 4 years ago.
Each senior described where he or she is going to college. Some are studying voice or musical theater; others will become engineers, journalists or psychologists. One hopes to enter the Marines.
Then the seniors announced a gift. They stood on the risers and sang “Dominus Vobiscum” by Sydney Guillaume, the Haitian composer whose “Tap Tap” they had already performed to thunderous applause.
Luke Rosenberg (left) listens to his graduating seniors sing.
The soon-to-be-graduates had chosen the piece, rehearsed it, and nailed it — all on their own.
Choral director Luke Rosenberg directs the Orphenians at Yankee Stadium. (Photo/New York Yankees)
They had to wait out an hour-and-20-minute rain delay — hey, that’s show biz — but when they finally stood at home plate, they delivered a strong, sophisticated and inspiring rendition of our national anthem.
The largest crowd ever to watch the Orphenians perform gave them a loud, well-deserved hand.
Best of all, they made it onto the Jumbotron.
For the Yankees’ official high-def video, click here.
For Jim Honeycutt’s video — including scenes of the Orphenians greeting Jimmy Fallon and Lorne Michaels before they leave the field — click here:
To see Kim Mathias’ video, click below (or here, if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube):
To see Chip Stephens’ video, click below (or here, if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube):
The 2008 Staples High School graduate scored some prime roles — Martin Delancey and a newsboy, plus understudy for lead Jack Kelly — in the popular Broadway show “Newsies.” But he has returned to Westport often, enjoying Staples Players productions and visiting Greens Farms Elementary School music classes.
Now Kaplan is donating his talents to a fundraiser for the Orphenians, the elite high school singing group that helped boost his career. The a cappella musicians have been invited to San Francisco — the only East Coast group to participate in the famed Chanticleer National Youth Choral Festival, this March.
Kaplan has put together an all-star Broadway cast, for a benefit performance. Set to appear with him in the Staples auditorium on Monday, January 26: “Newsies” Tommy Bracco and Molly Jobe; Matt Shingledecker (“Wicked,” “West Side Story,” “Spring Awakening”); Steffanie Leigh (the final Mary of “Mary Poppins”); Robin de Jesús (current star of “Wicked”; 2-time Tony nominee for “In the Heights” and “La Cage aux Folles”); Barrett Wilbert Weed (“Heathers the Musical,” “Lysistrat Jones”) and Kara Lindsay (“Wicked,” “Newsies”).
Proceeds will help all Orphenians be able to make the trip. Click here to order tickets ($40 for adults, $20 for students and seniors). If you can’t attend but would like to contribute, click here.
The Orphenians are entering their busy season. Staples’ elite a cappella group is in high demand during the holidays.
But they’re also looking ahead to spring. In March, they’ve been invited to San Francisco. They’re one of 10 schools — and the only one from the East Coast — to participate in Chanticleer’s National Youth Choral Festival.
It’s an expensive undertaking. To raise funds, they’re bringing a giant music box to their performances. Donations are gratefully accepted.
The box was there last night, for Chanticleer’s performance at Christ & Holy Trinity Church.
The Orphenians, and their gift music box.
It will be out this weekend too, at the Candlelight Concert. If you’d like to help, drop cash or checks (made out to “Staples Music,” with “Orphenians” in the memo line) into the box.
Donations can also be sent to Luke Rosenberg, c/o Staples High School, 70 North Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.
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