The video — featuring performances by choral groups, orchestras and bands, along with interviews with current and past music instructor/legends, and alumni — wowed a worldwide audience when it was first shown on Saturday.
This will be your last chance to see the show, however. Copyright issues preclude posting the video permanently to YouTube or Vimeo.
NOTE: You can view the performance on your smart TV, Roku or Apple TV. Just click the Airplay icon on your phone, tablet or computer.
Despite masks and social distance, Staples musicians gave stunning performances. (Photo/Brandon Malin)
Staples High School’s Candlelight Concert is always special. The 3 performances are the hottest ticket in town. For parents, other Westporters and alumni who attend, it marks the true start of the holiday season.
The coronavirus impacted the concert, as it has every other aspect of life. This year’s event — the 80th annual — went virtual. Choirs, orchestras and bands were recorded earlier this month. Performers and conductors were (of course) masked and socially distanced.
But one of the unexpected and joyful consequences of COVID is that this year’s Candlelight was extra-special.
Ryan Smith used several cameras to tape the performances. Brandon Malin led a superb high school lighting crew. The Staples Music Parents Association’s decorations turned the gym into a concert hall.
With the help of many, you’d never know this was the Staples High School gym. (Photo/Brandon Malin)
I was honored to be asked to conduct interviews with former music instructors and alumni. George Weigle and John Hanulik’s now-grown children, alums like Suzanne Sherman Propp, Shirah Lipson and Jon Gailmor — all provided perspectives, augmented by the current talented, passionate directors.
The Staples musicians were — as always — spectacular. Astonishingly, they had had only one in-person rehearsal a week together — and that was with only half the group. The other half was learning remotely.
Add in the fact that they performed apart from each other — no easy feat — and this truly seems like a holiday miracle.
A screenshot of the orchestra during last night’s livestream.
Nearly 3,500 people logged in to last night’s Candlelight Concert. The total audience probably reached 5 figures, as many viewers watched with family and friends.
They were watching in Westport, of course, but all over the world too — California, France, you name it. We know, because the “chat” function was filled with chatter. Strangers became fast friends, posting memories and praising the current crop of young musicians (and their teachers).
It was something old, something new. It was fresh and different — but there was still the processional, “Sing We Noel,” and the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
It was the Candlelight Concert, COVID -style.
A screenshot of Luke Rosenberg conducting a choral ensemble. (Screenshots courtesy of June Whittaker)
Head to the Savvy + Grace Christmas tree. Child nutrition program Filling in the Blanks will sell reflective metal tags, which can hold a personal message or name to hang onto to the tree! They’ll also collect 15-ounce soup cans.
Around the corner, the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra’s Brass Quintet will play in the pick-up circle outside Bedford Square on Elm Street, then move to Brooks Corner (1 to 3 p.m.)
Don’t forget to look at (and vote for) store window displays. Over 40 stores are vying for titles, in several categories. Click here for more information.
The Savvy + Grace tree.
Speaking of downtown: Like many retailers, Fleet Feet has been impacted by the pandemic.
But during the holiday season, the Sconset Square running shoe store is thinking about its neighbors — Westport’s restaurants.
So any customer who buys a $100 Fleet Feet gift card in the store gets a $20 gift card to a local eatery.
They’re open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays 8 to 11 a.m. (appointment only), and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What a great idea. Run on down to get yours! (Hat tip: Sal Liccione)
As of yesterday, Westport had 839 cumulative cases of COVID-19 (772 confirmed, 67 suspected). That’s up 53 from the previous week — and the rate more than doubled from that previous week, when it was up by 25.
There were no coronavirus deaths in Westport over the past 7 days. Total deaths since the start of the pandemic are 25.
I know everyone is busy this weekend with tons of holiday open houses, carol sings and other festive gatherings. (In our dreams…)
But don’t forget tomorrow’s Staples High School Candlelight Concert (Saturday, December 19, 7:30 p.m.). The 80th annual gift to the town is fully virtual this year. It includes many wonderful choral, orchestra and band selections, as well as cool interviews with current and past music instructors, alumni — even legends George Weigle and John Hanulik’s kids.
Click here for the free link. Then sit back and enjoy a memorable show.
More Staples news: Louisa D’Amore has been recognized for outstanding achievement. She is one of 4 national recipients of the Italian Language Foundation’s Teacher Recognition Award.
And finally … to get you in the Candlelight Concert mood, here’s this gem from 2015:
Staples High School’s 80th annual Candlelight Concert will look nothing like the previous 79.
But it will still look very cool.
Yesterday, “06880” described this year’s COVID format: a livestream on December 19, with recorded performances and intriguing interviews. (Click here for details, and a registration link.)
Staples senior Brandon Malin was the lighting director for last weekend’s taping. It was a professionally produced event, as befits the music department’s traditional, beloved gift to the town.
Here’s what it looked like, when the masked, socially distanced musicians arrived:
Dead fish continue to pile up on the shores of Compo and Old Mill Beaches.
They’re bunker. They form large colonies, deprive themselves of oxygen, and die. It’s unusual though for it to happen so late in the season.
Patricia McMahon composed this grim but natural collage:
(Photo collage/Patricia McMahon)
Who doesn’t love gingerbread houses? But who has time to make them?
Members of the Westport Woman’s Club, that’s who.
They’ve created 20 gorgeous (and non-edible) houses for a special fundraiser.
Click here to see all of them. For a $20 ticket, you’ll be entered in a random drawing. It’s a great way to help the Woman’s Club fund many worthy projects. Tickets can be purchased at the link above; in person at the club (44 Imperial)Avenue, or mailed to the above address.
A few of the gingerbread houses.
Bruno Guiduli is a key defender on Staples High School’s soccer team.
But this winter, he’s scoring — not preventing shots. He’s shooting on a small cutout banner in his yard. By scoring 2,020 times, his “goal” is to raise money and increase awareness of TOPSoccer, a nonprofit that embraces children and teenagers with intellectual, emotional and/or physical disabilities. Players develop at their own pace, in a safe, fun and nurturing environment.
Bruno has set up a page for donations, while he shoots. Funds help special needs players participate. “No one should be turned away due to financial challenges,” he says.
“Soccer has been a source of competition, challenge and discipline,” Bruno says. “It has taught me the value of teamwork and reaching a goal (no pun intended). So I want to help kids of differing abilities reach their goals. and experience a similar love for the game as I do every day.” Click here to donate.
Bruno Guiduli, with the TOPSoccer goal he’s shooting at.
Dave Briggs is a pro.
The former CNN, Fox News and NBC Sports anchor’s Instagram Live interviews (@WestportMagazine) are consistently compelling and clever.
And I’m not just saying that because I’m his guest today (5 p.m.). Check us out!
The other day, Nile Rodgers testified before Parliament. The world-famous singer/guitarist/musician/arranger/producer told British lawmakers that streaming platforms should pay musicians more. He said he realized the situation when COVID curtailed his touring.
I’ve never been inside his Saugatuck Shores home. But if the Daily Mail photo below of his testimony — livestreamed, of course — was taken there, it’s got some pretty impressive decorations. (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)
(Photo courtesy of Daily Mail)
And finally … today marks the first night of Hanukkah. Don’t let the light go out!
Staples High School graduate Catherine Webster now lives in Oklahoma. Her congregation — First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City — is celebrating the tricentennial of the carol “Joy to the World.” On Facebook, she wrote that last Sunday’s service focused on the idea that music transcends the intellect, and speaks directly to the heart and soul.
During the lay reflection, Catherine described the traditions of Staples’ Candlelight Concert. It was a joy, she said, to share both “Sing We Noel” and “Welcome Yule” with her beloved community. Here are her beautiful, heartfelt remarks:
Dost thou remember the Prophet of old Who that most wond’rous story told How of a virgin pure and mild Should be born a perfect child? The seer spake true: The virgin so fair A son from Heaven doth declare Sing we Noël, Noël, Noël.
If this song is unfamiliar to you, fear not: I bring good tidings of great joy! It’s exceedingly obscure, and you won’t be hearing it any time soon on KMGL’s all–holiday line-up.
But for me, it’s a Christmas classic. Every vocal music student from my high school back in Connecticut has learned this song since the 1950s. The 100-voice a cappella choir has used it as a processional for the annual Candlelight Concert, literally for generations. And will again next weekend (I checked.).
This is music that speaks directly to my heart, and the setting also adds to its power.
The Candlelight Concert is timeless. This shot, from 2011, was taken by Lynn U. Miller — a Staples choir member in the early 1970s.
In the dim of the high school auditorium, the school orchestra would play the instrumental introduction as the choir, robed in blue with white stoles, processed down the 3 aisles and surrounded the audience with the warm light of flickering (electric) candlelight.
Once everyone was in place, the orchestra played a big downbeat and the choir members would turn to face the audience. A high school teacher commented that he always associated that turn with the future that his soon to be former students – the graduating seniors — were facing, full of hope, candles aglow.
My family started to attend this concert in 1966, when it was already a long-standing tradition and considered the high school’s holiday gift to the town of Westport.
I had just turned 1 year old that year. We continued to attend the concert as youth from our church, babysitters, our friends’ older siblings and – finally – my brother and I made it to high school to take part.
In 1979, the annual concert was already 39 years old. Some of those performers — now with their own children out of college — will return this weekend.
Although clearly a Christmas carol, performing this song touched the hearts of my many Jewish friends and the several others, like me, who identified as non-Christian.
The power of the song, and of the tradition, transcended a particular theology and unified us. I know I was not the only student who felt the weight of history as we took our places, continuing the tradition that our elders had established, helping to continue and preserve it for those not yet born.
In an online forum related to my hometown, a woman who graduated in 1958 commented: “Can anyone explain why every time I see a post about Staples’ Christmas Candlelight concert I immediately start to sing ‘Sing We Noel,’ and get all misty-eyed?”
To which the original poster replied: “Because once you’ve been part of it, it’s part of your soul.”
It is certainly part of mine.
Antonio Antonelli, in the 2018 “Sing We Noel” processional.
So is the introit that the choir sang in the lobby prior to the processional. Unseen but not unheard, many of us held hands as we performed this number, which has for me a truly ancient feel. Here’s the final verse:
Welcome be you that are here
Welcome all and make good cheer
Welcome all another year
(The 79th annual Candlelight Concert is set for tomorrow — Friday, December 13 — and Saturday, December 14. All tickets have already been distributed.)
The “Sing We Noel” processional — a part of every Candlelight Concert since 1940. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
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)
Posted onNovember 13, 2018|Comments Off on Candlelight Concert Tickets Available Next Monday
The weather may be cold.
But it’s the hottest ticket in town.
The 78th annual Staples High School Candlelight Concert will pack the auditorium for 3 performances next month: Friday, December 14 (8 p.m.), and Saturday, December 15 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.).
This annual gift to the Westport community showcases the diverse talents of Staples musicians (and their teachers). There’s music from around the world, and of course the opening processional, inspiring “Hallelujah Chorus” and creative production number.
Groups performing include Bella Voce, Choralaires, Anima Cantorum, bands and Symphonic Orchestra.
Because it’s a gift from the Staples music department, tickets are free. But they go very fast. They’re available to the public starting at 9 a.m. this Monday (November 19). Click here then to get yours!
The always-evocative “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo by Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
Comments Off on Candlelight Concert Tickets Available Next Monday
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