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
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:
Some things are timeless. Staples High School’s Candlelight Concert, for example, with its achingly beautiful “Sing We Noel” processional; its spectacular choral, orchestral and band music; its boisterous production number, and its show-stopping “Hallelujah Chorus” finale.
Some things are new — like using the internet to order of tickets.
This year — for only the 2nd year in a row — tickets are available online. Orders will be taken beginning 9 a.m. this Monday (November 20), at http://www.StaplesMusic.org. There is a 4-ticket maximum.
The 77th annual Candlelight Concert is set for Friday, December 15 (8 p.m.) and Saturday, December 16 (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.).
The concert is a gift to Westport, from the Staples music department. Tickets are free.
The traditional “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
If you can’t get enough of Staples High School’s Candlelight Concerts — and if you don’t mind one more “06880” post about them — read on:
You can watch last weekend’s 75th anniversary broadcast 2015 by clicking here. The student-run telecast was led by Justin Schwebel and Cooper Boardman.
Meanwhile, WWPT-FM will air 20 Candlelight Concert CDs — plus 2 old-time, student-produced radio dramas (“It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol”) from now through New Years. If you’re in the area, tune in to 90.3. If you’re anywhere else on the planet, click here for the live stream.
Candlelight: The gift to the town that keeps on giving.
(Special thanks to Jim Honeycutt, Staples’ Media Lab teacher who makes all this amazing stuff happen.)
A collage of Candlelight Concert album and CD covers, through the ages.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thanks!)