This weekend’s Candlelight Concert — the 82nd since 1940 — honored both its long and storied tradition, and kept it fresh and new.
The choral symphonic and jazz ensembles awed the full auditorium with their voices and musicianship. The program — from the traditional, lovely “Sing We Noel” through the stunning “Nutcracker Suite,” rousing “Jubilate Deo” and clever production number, to the powerful “Home Alone Suite” and rousing “Hallelujah Chorus” finale — was both proof that our town’s young artists are very alive, quite well (and superbly well-trained), and that even in times of uncertainty and division, all can be right in Westport.
Congratulations and thanks to all who made Candlelight possible: choral director Luke Rosenberg; orchestra directors Carrie Mascaro and Jeri Hockensmith; band director Phil Giampietro; townwide music and visual arts coordinator Steve Zimmerman — and of course all the teenage musicians, who gave us the gift of music.
And of course thanks to Lynn Untermeyer Miller, who captured all the magic of the show.
The stage …
… and the lobby …
… the welcoming musicians …
… the ubiquitous Alice Addicks …
… the “Sing We Noel” processional …
… the orchestra …
… in tune with each other …
… an intense gaze …
… the Jazz Combo plays “Frosty the Red-Nosed Christmas Tree” …
… and the vocal duet “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” …
… and the music …
… and the production number, Don Rickenback’s original “Holiday Greeting Letter” …
… and another production number view …
… while Jeri Hockensmith (rear) introduces her Staples music department staff (from left) Carrie Moscaro, Luke Rosenberg, Nick Giampietro and Don Rickenback. (All photos/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
(Happy holidays! If you’d like to help support this hyper-local blog, please click here. Thank you!)
All the stars aligned for last night’s Westport Pops — the annual end-of-school- year/kick-off-the-summer spectacular at the Levitt Pavilion.
The weather was superb. COVID has eased. The crowd of parents, siblings, classmates, and folks with kids long out of school was ready for a great show.
They got it.
Staples High School’s Symphonic Band and Orchestra, Choralaires, Orphenians, Jazz Ensemble and small groups — plus the Middle School Percussion Ensemble — put on a professional-worthy show.
Westport has been named a “Best Community for Music Education” by the NAMM Foundation — for 9 years in a row.
Last night’s concert was proof — not that any was needed — that this is a town that supports, nurtures and embraces its young musicians.
To the more than 130 musicians on stage last night: Bravo!
Stafford Thomas calls himself “the proud Pops principal” of Staples High School.
The Middle School Percussion Ensemble warms up the crowd.
Emcee David Pogue (“CBS Sunday Morning”) entertains the crowd with his trademark easy wit. The father of 3 current or former Staples musicians, he graduated from Yale with a music degree — and spent 10 years as a Broadway conductor and arranger.
Luke Rosenberg leads the Orphenians in a stirring version of the national anthem.
The Jazz Ensemble’s numbers range from traditional to Afro-pop.
Orchestra members listen as their classmates perform.
Ryan Porio channels his inner Frank Sinatra on “Come Fly With Me.”
A small portion of the crowd — the largest since COVID first struck.
Vibraphonist Amy Ginzburg solos on “The Nearness of You.”
The view from the sound booth. (Photo/Brandon Malin)
Symphonic Orchestra, Symphonic Band and Choralaiares’ join in selections ranging from “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “This is Me” to a “West Side Story” medley.
Music instructors (from left) Jeri Hockensmith, Luke Rosenberg, Carrie Mascaro, Phil Giampietro, Mary Gardner and Caitlin Serpliss acknowledge applause before the finale.
Staples graduates Christian Melhuish and Samantha Chachra close the show with “Make Our Garden Grow” from “Candide.” (All photos/Dan Woog unless otherwise noted.)
(Last night’s Pops Concert was free. But donations are always welcome, to defray ongoing costs. Click here to contribute.)
(“06880” relies on support from readers like you. Click here to help.)
Last December, the Staples High School music department kicked the already-spectacular Candlelight Concert up a few notches.
Rather than each group — choral, orchestral, band — performing separately, nearly every piece was a collaboration. Audiences loved it.
It worked so well, the Staples music staff is reprising the idea for this year’s Pops Concert.
The show — only a few years old, but already one of Westport’s favorite traditions — is Friday, June 10.
A full house at Levitt Pavilion will enjoy a stunning show. The Symphonic Band, Symphonic Orchestra and Choraliers combine on a wide range of numbers: “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “This is Me” (from “The Greatest Showman,” co-written by Staples grad Justin Paul); Conga Del Fuego Nuevo,” a “West Side Story” medley, and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” with alumni soloists Christian Melhuish and Samantha Chachra.
They’ll be preceded by give pieces from the award-winning Jazz Ensemble, and several small choral groups, including a duet, trio and barbershop quartet.
Part of the large crowd at the 2017 Staples Pops Concert.
The music staff — led by directors Luke Rosenberg, Carrie Mascaro, Phil Giampietro and Jeri Hockensmith — is energized, working with all 3 groups.
And, notes Giampietro, “This is not a shuffle on, shuffle off concert. The Levitt stage is really versatile. The staging is really unique.”
The Pops Concert has one more unique feature: The MC. David Pogue — nationally known “explainer” (“CBS Sunday Morning,” PBS’ “Nova,” Scientific American, New York Times and more), and (most importantly for this show) the father of 3 present or former Staples performers — does the honors.
Pops Concert tickets will be available to the public at 9 a.m. on June 2 at www.StaplesMusic.org. It’s free — but donations to the Staples Music Department are gratefully accepted (and encouraged).
Money helps fund concerts throughout the year, and commissions for new music — allowing students to work closely with professional composers.
Hmmm …. sounds like the conductors have something in mind for next year …
(Levitt Pavilion gates open at 5:30 p.m. on June 10. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Guests should bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. Food trucks will be on site.)
Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs honored Pete Wolgast yesterday morning. with a prestigious District Governor’s Citation. The ceremony was held at the Sunrise Rotary meeting at Greens Farms Church. In addition to top Rotary officials, attendees included 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, her predecessor Jim Marpe, RTM moderator Jeff Wieser and Westport Weston Family YMCA CEO Anjali McCormick.
Wolgast’s service to Sunrise Rotary (he’s a former president) — and the entire town — is legendary. The University of Michigan and Harvard MBA graduate:
Was elected to the Representative Town Meeting, and chaired its Finance and Parks & Recreation Committees
Was executive assistant to 1st selectman Doug Wood; been a member of the Westport Republican Town Committee (2 terms as chair)
Twice chaired the Y’s board of trustees (2007-11 and 2013-20); chaired its Endowment Committee (2000-06); Volunteer of the Year honoree 2020
As president of the Westport Historical Society, chaired the committee that supervised the writing of the town’s definitive history
Been part of Westport’s Charter Revision Committee
Chaired Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s board, and volunteered on its Finance Committee
Joined the Y’s Men of Westport/Weston in 1987, and been its president
Served as a Boy Scout troop leader and board chair
Coached youth baseball and basketball for nearly 20 years, in Westport and London.
Wolgast and his wife Janet have been married for over 65 years. They have 4 children, 7 grandchildren and a great-grandson.
Congratulations, Pete, for this well-deserved honor. And thank you for all you have done, for all of us.
Pete Wolgast, at yesterday’s ceremony. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)
Staples Tuition Grants’ annual awards evening is one of the feel-good highlights of the year.
The 2022 event — set for Tuesday, May 31 (6 p.m., Staples auditorium) — will be particularly special. The $400,000 in scholarships will be the most ever — a whopping 14% higher than last year.
The average award will be $3,700. That too is a record — about $1,000 more than STG’s 10-year average.
The average help is 19% of net need. They can’t fill the aggregate net need of $2.4 million, but STG provides more assistance the even the federal government ($370,000 in Pell grants).
Help is provided to 8.4% of the graduating class of 2022. About 10% of the class needs help paying for college. The cost of tuition, room and board has reached $85,000 at some schools. Meanwhile, the funding gap widens — up 50% from 2 years ago.
Grants will help 108 students attend 76 colleges.
Nearly 700 Westporters and friends donated to STG’s general fund, named or endowed awards. Click here for more information, and to help Staples Tuition Grants.
Speaking of scholarships: Westport PAL awarded its scholarships on Monday night.
Awardees included Charlie Howard, Jaden Mueller (Chief Luciano Athletic); Alex Harrington, Kyle Harrington (Chief Luciano Good Citizenship); Brian Fullenbaum (PJ Romano Scholarship); Colin Konstanty (Greg LaValla Scholarship); Nick Augeri (Buck Iannacone Scholarship); Jack Oakley (Bernstein Family); Matthew Spada (Deputy Chief John Anastasia Scholarship).
If you missed the Staples Spring Choral Concert earlier this month — what a shame. It was a wonderful show. All the music was selected by students. They performed difficult pieces, in a wide range of genres and styles, at their usual spectacularly high level.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology (and of videographer Jim Honeycutt), you can watch the whole concert now. Just click here — and enjoy.
Screenshot from the Staples High School Spring Choral Concert.
An application to subdivide the 12-acre Kowalsky property on Morningside Drive South, bordered by Clapboard Hill Road and Turkey Hill Road South, has been withdrawn. It will be resubmitted at a future date.
The Planning & Zoning Commission meeting scheduled for Monday to discuss it — and the Westport PAL clubhouse at PJ Romano Field — has been canceled. (Hat tips; Dick Lowenstein, Art Schoeller)
When Suzanne Tanner lived in Los Angeles, she met a Holocaust survivor named Rachel Goldman Miller.
After writing a multimedia musical documenting Miller’s life, Tanner is dedicating this Memorial Day weekend to her.
“Resonant music, lyrics and modern art can help us understand that history is only as strong as memory, a poignant reminder for today’s mounting war atrocities,” Tanner says.
Miller narrates her life story from a background movie that peppers the show with impactful visuals and testimony, while Tanner plays her role live — from her childhood in pre-war Paris to her elder years as a valuable Shoah participant and loving mother of a son who died of AIDS.
“Beyond Me: A Song Cycle in the Key of Survival” will be performed next Saturday (May 28, JCC, Sherman, CT). Tickets are $25 and $20, available at the door, but reservations recommended. Click here for details.
The Westport Weston Family YMCA Livestrong program –a free, 12-week program of physical, educational and social activities for adults living with, through and beyond cancer — filled up fast. There were 25 applications, for 8 spots.
The good news: The Wilton Y is starting the same program the first week in June. Five spots are open; Wilton residency is not required. Email email@example.com for more information. (Hat tip: Amy Weiss)
2021 was a difficult year. But as dark as things seem, we always have music.
Here in Westport, we’re particularly lucky. We have the Staples High School music department. Each year, they give us a gift: the Candlelight Concert.
This year — the 81st — was particularly welcome.
Despite the challenges — including Omicron and mask mandates — the concert was astonishing. It might be the best ever.
But don’t take my word for it. Watch the combined instrumental and orchestral version of Beethoven’s Fantasie for Piano, Choir and Orchestra Op. 80 for yourself.
Starting slowly, then building to a stunning crescendo, it features senior Sasha Maskoff’s remarkable piano solo.
Vocal soloists include Sophia Betit, Shanti Wimmer, Jackiei Peterson, Sydney Gusick, Emily Desser Lauranne De Vos, Samuel Betit, Peter Macris, James Dobin-Smith, Zach Berman, Jeffrey Pogue and Ryan Porio.
Seven days from the end of a terrible year, these 12 minutes will convince you that this is — still — a very beautiful world.
(Kudos to Jim Honeycutt, who taped and produced this video.)
Staples High School’s 81st annual Candlelight Concert — but first of the 2020s decade — awed audiences this weekend, with stunning performances by nearly 200 young musicians and singers.
(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
With slight tweaks — an almost indiscernible new arrangement of “Sing We Noel,” snappy staging, even a new font in the program — the beloved event held on to all its important rituals, while offering fresh takes that showcased astonishing individual talents, and tremendous collaboration among teachers and groups.
A festive scene greeted concert-goers in the auditorium lobby. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Along with offerings from the Symphonic Band, Symphonic Orchestra nd Choirs, highlights included (but were hardly limited to) the Jazz Combo’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”; the String Quartet’s “Andante Festivo”; the Percussion Ensemble’s “Nutcracker to Go,” and the show-stopping “Fantasie for Piano, Choir & Orchestra Op. 80” by Beethoven, with vocal soloists and a mesmerizing performance by senior pianist Sasha Maskoff.
Another tradition: Alice Addicks greeting the audience. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
Each music instructor took turns leading combined group. Take a well-deserved bow, Luke Rosenberg, Carrie Mascaro, Phil Giampietro and Jeri Hockensmith — and your scores of talented, passionate performing artists.
(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
“Sing We Noel” processional (Photo/Dan Woog)
Orchestra director Jeri Hockensmith leads “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.” (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
All eyes are on the conductor. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
Phil Giampietro acknowledges applause for the band and orchestra. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Masks did not detract at all from the choral selections. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Choral director Luke Rosenberg helped mastermind the 2021 Candlelight Concert. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
Jeffrey Pogue and Shanti Wimmer solo on the Jazz Ensemble’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
Sasnta and friend, in Don Rickenback’s peppy production number (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
Carrie Mascaro conducts the rousing “Hallelujah Chorus.” (Photo/Dan Woog)
Adding a bit of color to the Symphonic Band. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Staples music instructors (from left) Jeri Hockesmith,Don Rickenback, Mary Gardner, Luke Rosenberg, Phil Giampietro and Caitlin Serpliss acknowledge applause of their musicians after the “Hallelujah Chorus.” (Photo/Dan Woog)
Dozens of alumni joined nearly 200 musicians onstage for the “Hallelujah Chorus” finale. (Photo/Danielle Dobin)
Missed the concert? Mark this coming Thursday (December 23, 8 p.m.); click on www.StaplesMusic.org, for a streamed, previously recorded show.
As Westporters scramble to get COVID vaccine booster shots — because we’ve all had the first 2 shots already, right??!1 — the town Department of Human Services says that appointments can be made through the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS).
You can also check out Achorn Pharmacy (click here).
Walgreens’ website says that appointments are booked for the foreseeable future. However, I’ve heard reports of people walking in and getting jabbed.
I got my booster at the New Canaan Pharmacy. It’s a walk-in site, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I got there at 10:15, and had a 40-minute wait.
To share your experience with other vaccine spots, click “Comments” below.
Following the shootings at Oxford High School, the Staples music staff contacted their colleagues there, offering to help.
The Michigan school replied: “The Oxford High School Performing Arts Staff is overwhelmed with the offers of support for our programs during this time. As of right now, we don’t have any ‘concrete’ needs, but our students need to know that they are supported and loved. The best way that we think we can deliver that message is through music.”
Attached to the email was music for the school fight song and alma mater.
Staples’ Symphonic Band, Symphonic Orchestra, and combined Choirs were in the midst of rehearsing for this weekend’s Candlelight Concerts. Still, teachers found time to put together a performance, and a message of support to share with Oxford and other school communities around the country.
Click here, for the gift of 180 Staples musicians — and their teachers — to their fellow students and staff at Oxford High. (Hat tip: Former media teacher Jim Honeycutt, who produced the video.)
The other day, “06880” passed along the Hackett family’s request for new and gently used sports equipment. This is the second year the Westporters have collected it, then passed it along to underserved kids through the Leveling the Field non-profit.
On Thursday night, Leveling the Field picked up a huge truckload of gear. They collected more than last year — and they thank everyone who helped make this a happy holiday for so many sports-loving youngsters.
From left: Max Levitt, Leveling the Playing Field founder; Alex, Daisy and Chloe Hackett.
Some things old. Some things new. Nothing borrowed. But very (Staples) blue.
That’s the formula for next month’s 81st annual Candlelight Concert.
The beloved event returns with its traditional 3 in-person performances, after last year’s successful-but-still-not-the-same online documentary video.
To celebrate, the Staples High School music staff plans something special.
They’re a collegial, collaborative bunch. So that’s the theme of this year’s concert.
The familiar elements are all there: the “Sing We Noel” processional, “Hallelujah Chorus” finale, and production number in between.
Santa, elves, the choir, chorus, chorale and orchestra join in the “Hallelujah Chorus” finale. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
But — to share the “community” feeling that the music department enjoys — they’ll offer 4 big combined pieces. The band and orchestra will share the stage with choral singers throughout the performance.
Each conductor — Luke Rosenberg (choral), Carrie Mascaro and Jeri Hockensmith (orchestra) and Phil Giampietro (band) — leads one number.
The stage has been extended, to fit all performers.
Pieces include Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival” and Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy.” The latter — a large-scale piano concerto with chorus — features senior pianist Sasha Maskoff.
Don Rickenback returns as writer and director of the production number.
Students are as excited as their teachers for the collaboration. They enjoy rehearsing together, and the exposure to other conductors. They’re proud too to be part of a very large effort.
The Candlelight Concert is set for Friday, December 17 (8 p.m.) and Saturday, December 18 (3 and 8 p.m.). Tickets will be available to the public at 9 a.m. on December 1. COVID safety protocols in effect at the time will be followed.
It will also be livestreamed one time only (due to video rights), on December 23.
Now let hosannas ring …
The Candlelight Concert returns for its 81st year next month.
Flags at Town Hall fly at half staff, in memory of the 8 people killed in Atlanta earlier this week.
The town’s Facebook page says: “The Town of Westport condemns the horrific attacks on our Asian neighbors, families and friends. An act of violence and racism against anyone is an affront to those among us who promote love, unity, and acceptance for all.
“Westport stands in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.”
“When I saw a post on Facebook, I figured I’d buy the book to be supportive. Little did I know it would be a heartfelt page-turner, and that my longtime next door neighbor, a grandmother of 6 teens, is also an excellent wordsmith with an emotional multigenerational story to tell.
“An avid reader, I was impressed. I believe other Westporters will also enjoy this captivating tale by a woman who has lived and raised her family here for the past 26-plus years.
“The story spans 3 generations of strong women, from the wartime 1940s to today. It deftly shifts perspectives and countries, between Joan, a modern woman coming of age in the tristate area and her star-crossed ’60s romance; her mother, an innocent teen in Athens during the Axis occupation who toughens up, joins the Resistance and falls in love with the enemy; and grandmother, the young daughter of a rabbi who is forced to leave her doting Jewish family in Turkey and flee to a convent in Greece under an assumed Christian identity to escape the pogroms.
“Isaacson has a steel-trap memory, a knack for period details, and a penchant for describing the music and food that pulls you directly into each era and country, from Weehawken, New Jersey to Odessa, Russia to Athens, Greece to Westport.
“It’s a story of struggle, survival, sisterhood, and of enduring family love that spans 3 generations. Pour yourself a cup of Ibrik (strong Greek coffee) and put your feet up for a good read by a local author.”
Joan Isaacson with her husband Sheldon, at Compo Beach.
There’s no “Sing We Noel” processional this weekend. Alumni won’t throng the risers for the “Hallelujah Chorus.” All the little things — the beautiful music, zippy production number, even the large wreath hanging as a backdrop — are missing from this year’s Candlelight Concert.
But parents, friends and alumni — even the singers and musicians themselves — will feel the familiar goosebumps this Saturday (December 19, 7:30 p.m.), when a special livestream brings Candlelight to homes around the globe.
And if your home is in Westport, why not do something to help the town?
(Photo by Lynn U. Miller)
The Staples High School music department — which for 80 yeas has offered this gift to the town — has a great idea to make this home-for-the-holiday event extra special.
They suggest that everyone in Westport enjoy a takeout dinner this Saturday. Pick a favorite spot. Order a favorite meal. Pick it up (or have it delivered). Then gather around the TV screen (or computer), and make a festive night of it.
The music department makes this super easy. They’ve linked to Our Town Crier’s Westport Marketplace restaurant page. Just click here. There are dozens of places to choose from, featuring every cuisine (and price point).
It’s no secret: Restaurants need our help.
It’s also no secret: The Candlelight Concert is all about sharing.
This Saturday, share a meal along with music. And help our restaurants end 2020 on a high “note.”
(Click here for free registration for Saturday’s Candlelight Concert.)
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