Tag Archives: Staples Orphenians

Cabaret!

Broadway was dark last night. That’s a Monday tradition.

But a capacity crowd at Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall enjoyed an evening of entertainment as show-stopping as anything you’ll see in New York.

Tony Award-winning Kelli O’Hara and “A Bronx Tale” lead Adam Kaplan headlined an all-star cabaret. It was a fundraiser for Staples Orphenians, who travel to Australia this summer for performances and workshops.

Kelli O’Hara, at last night’s cabaret. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

O’Hara — a Westport resident — wowed the crowd with her operatic voice. She was full of praise for Staples’ stellar a cappella group, who she first heard perform last spring, at the Levitt Pavilion.

Standing in the church hall loft, the Orphenians — led by choral director Luke Rosenberg, down below — accompanied O’Hara on 2 compelling numbers.

Kaplan — a 2008 Staples graduate — recalled his days in the music and drama programs. At Elon University, he said, he talked so much about his high school that his friends joked there were 3 levels of performance: “Elon, Broadway, and at the top, Staples.”

Adam Kaplan (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The cabaret also featured Staples grads Clay Singer and Caroline Didelot, and solos by 9 Orphenians.

(Click here for the Orphenians’ GoFundMe page.)

Orphenians Down Under

From the 1960s through the ’90s, Staples’ Orphenians sang in the Virgin Islands, Austria, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, the UK and the Czech Republic.

Nearly 2 decades ago — after his freshman year of high school — Luke Rosenberg’s chorus traveled from Michigan to Europe. The month-long trip made an indelible impression — and sparked a desire to become a choral music teacher.

Today, Rosenberg directs Staples High School’s choral program. So when the Orphenians were invited to Australia, he seized the chance to take the elite a cappella group on its greatest adventure yet.

The 2018 Staples Orphenians

This summer, his singers will spend 4 days in Sydney. They’ll join ensembles from around the world — of all ages — rehearsing with Grammy winner Craig Hella Johnson, conductor of the famous Conspirare ensemble.

The capstone is a performance under Johnson at the Sydney Opera House. Orphenians will sing an eclectic assortment of choral music — including the world premiere of a piece by Jake Runestad.

The group then travels to Cairns. They’ll visit the Great Barrier Reef, a wildlife park and rain forest before returning to Westport.

“We get invitations regularly,” Rosenberg says of his ensemble. “But this one stands out. Craig Hella Johnson is one of the most highly respected and passionate choral composers, arrangers and conductors in the world. People say singing with him is a spiritual experience.”

Providing that experience — and all the others involved in a trip like this — is Rosenberg’s goal. He does not expect every student to have the same reaction he did, years ago in Europe — “they won’t all become music teachers,” he jokes — but he does hope they’ll learn a bit more about the world, and themselves, through music.

Choral director Luke Rosenberg. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Of course, taking a group of teenagers to Australia is not cheap. Orphenians are sponsoring a cabaret with Broadway star/Westporter Kelli O’Hara, and Broadway star/Staples alum Adam Kaplan. It’s already sold out.

There’s also a GoFundMe page (click here).

“06880” is “where Westport meets the world.” This summer, Orphenians are where Staples meets the Sydney Opera House.

Nick Massoud’s Spizzwinks Circle The Globe — And Find Westport

There are nearly 20 a cappella groups at Yale University.

With his strong musical background at Staples High School, Nick Massoud could have auditioned for any. But he was drawn to the Spizzwinks.

The group offered something unique: During each member’s 3 years, they tour all 6 inhabited continents. And they perform in each member’s hometown.

Nick Massoud

Music was always part of Massoud’s life. He played in Betsy Tucker’s Long Lots steel band. He sang in musicals at Bedford Middle School, and with Staples Players.

Orphenians — the high school’s elite singing group — became his family.

Two years ago, director Luke Rosenberg’s group was invited to San Francisco. They sang at Chanticleer’s National Choral Festival. As they drove around the city and out to the redwood forest, they kept singing.

Massoud — who was also involved in Wreckers InTune, the debate team and JSA, and served as president of Top Hat Tutors — realized he could not give up music in college.

Spizzwinks are no part-time commitment. Last year they performed 97 concerts, at schools, nursing homes, churches and clubs. The non-profit choir is entirely student run. Members plan international tours, raise money, and handle logistics.

The Spizzwinks sing for Joe Biden and John Kerry. Nick Massoud is in the center — wearing a blue Yale tie.

“I saw an opportunity to use a lot of the skills I picked up running Top Hat, in a musical setting to facilitate 2 things I love: traveling, and singing with friends,” Massoud says.

Now, as a junior majoring in global affairs — with a concentration in international development — he is the group’s business manager.

He’s performed with them in China, Europe, New Zealand, Indonesia, Iowa, Hawaii and Alaska. They’ve sung for Joe Biden, John Kerry, the Italian prime minister, China’s vice premier, Lady Gaga and Melania Trump.

The Spizzwinks and Lady Gaga snap a selfie.

This year they’re scheduled for Morocco, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.

This month, he brings the Spizzwinks to Westport.

Sure, every member hosts the group at some point. But Massoud thinks the concerts in his home town are special.

“Having met so many people in college, I realize that growing up in a place that supports the arts so significantly is rare,” he says.

“Thinking back on it, it’s crazy that we could sell out the Staples auditorium 7 or 8 times for shows. It says a lot about our community. I’m excited to show my closest college friends the support Westport gives to the arts.”

The Westport schedule is packed. There’s an evening concert at Assumption Church (details in the poster above), a performance and master class at Bedford, and a session with the Staples choir.

That does not allow much time for Massoud to show off Westport. However, he will make sure to take the Spizzwinks to Sherwood Diner.

That’s where he and his fellow Players headed after every show — often in full makeup.

Massoud has traveled the globe with his group. However, he says, “bringing the Spizzwinks to my home, and showing them my community, feels like the most important thing I’ve done with them.

“I can’t wait to introduce them to some of my friends, and to the amazing, inspiring arts teachers in our schools.”

(Click here for the Spizzwinks’ new album, “Hometown.” Click below for their version of “Cry Me a River” — featuring Nick Massoud.)

 

Pops! Goes The Concert

After 1296 straight days of rain and cold, the sun finally came out today.

This evening, so did the crowds.

Over 1,500 people — proud parents, folks whose kids graduated from school back in the 20th century, little kids who were born in the 2010s — packed the Levitt Pavilion for the 2nd annual Westport Pops concert.

A bottle of wine, some Pops, and wow!

The Bedford Middle School jazz ensemble, and Long Lots’ steel drum band — is there another elementary school with one this side of the islands? — warmed up the crowd.

Orphenians sang the same stirring arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that they wowed crowds with at Yankee Stadium.

The Long Lots Elementary School steel band.

Then Staples’ 3 orchestras, Orphenians (again) and jazz band took over.

Staples High School’s brassy sax ensemble.

The program rolled from “West Side Story” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” to Dolly Parton and freedom songs. Madison Malin and Riley Thrush nailed solos.

Madison Malin solos, Luke Rosenberg conducts, and the Orphenians sing Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.”

And then — waving American flags handed out by the musicians — the enormous crowd clapped along to a rousing “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Stars and stripes on the Levitt lawn, during “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

A night like this was worth all 12,960 days of rain and cold.

“Live at Lincoln Center” producer Andrew Wilk guest conducts the symphonic and sophomore orchestras in “Stars and Stripes Forever.” (Photo/Valerie Smith-Malin)

Broadway actor, noted entertainer and Weston resident Jim Naughton emceed the pops concert with wit and grace.

The Westport Police Department Color Guard opened and closed the show.

BONUS FEATURE: Here’s what the Levitt looked like last night, from Brandon Malin’s quadcopter:

Luke Rosenberg: “I Get To Make Music With Young People Every Day”

Friday night’s choral concert at Staples High School was typical.

That is, typically spectacular.

Scores of teenagers — representing 6 different ensembles, including Orphenians — sang a wide variety of difficult, inspiring and beautiful pieces. The theme was “Arise”; the songs carried the audience from early morning to late night.

The entire concert — from concept to the selection of music — was designed by student officers.

But the best part came at the end.

Choral director Luke Rosenberg. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Choral director Luke Rosenberg stood to honor the 29 graduating seniors. They prepared to introduce themselves, and describe what’s next. (A who’s who of great colleges, with majors ranging from musical theater and stage management to biophysics and political science.)

First though, Rosenberg took the mic.

In an emotion-choked voice, he said:

“I get to make music with young people every day. I fall in love with these kids. Then they get old, and go away.

“I want them to grow up and do great things. But it’s bittersweet.”

Rosenberg then described why he loves what he does — and why it is important.

His goal is not to create 30 or 40 music majors. “Quite frankly,” he quipped, “there are not enough jobs.”

Rather, music is “something they can love, and be part of for the rest of their lives.”

Then — proving his point — when Rosenberg was done, and the 29 seniors had taken their bows, the Orphenians took center stage one more time.

With senior Jacob Leaf conducting, they sang a stunning version of “Ave Maria.”

They’d prepared it on their own — just for Luke Rosenberg.

Click below to see Luke Rosenberg’s full speech. It was filmed by Tom Malin — father of graduating senior Madison Malin — and edited by her brother Brandon.

A Minute With The Orphenians

Sure, you don’t have to go to Barnes & Noble for books or toys*.

But Amazon can’t deliver live, in-person music like we got yesterday, from the Staples Orphenians.

Here’s a brief sample: Mendelssohn’s “Weihnachten.”

Enjoy!

*Or even Starbucks.

O Christmas Tree!

With the help of a gaggle of little kids, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe lit the town Christmas tree this evening, on the Town Hall lawn.

Staples’ Orphenians sang. The Westport Historical Society provided hot chocolate. Youngsters gleefully counted down “3 … 2 … 1!”

Rockefeller Center it ain’t.

But it doesn’t have to be. Another Westport holiday season has “officially” begun.

Luke Rosenberg leads the Staples Orphenians.

Luke Rosenberg leads the Staples Orphenians.

Boys and girls help 1st Selectman Jim Marpe with the countdown.

Boys and girls help 1st Selectman Jim Marpe with the countdown.

The tree is lit. It's on the front lawn of Town Hall, on Myrtle Avenue.

The tree is lit. It’s on the front lawn of Town Hall, on Myrtle Avenue.

 

[UPDATE: WITH VIDEOS] O Say, Can The Orphenians Sing!

It’s always an honor to sing the national anthem at a professional sports event.

The honor was particularly meaningful tonight. Staples’ Orphenians performed at Yankee Stadium — immediately following a Yankee Stadium-wide memorial service for the Orlando massacre victims.

It was the 2nd year in a row for the elite a cappella group. Several recent graduates sang.

Their last gig ever as Orphenians was a night to remember.

Westport's "jazz rabbi," Greg Wall, happened to be at Yankee Stadium tonight when his hometown choir performed. He proudly sent this photo to "06880."

Westport’s “jazz rabbi,” Greg Wall, happened to be at Yankee Stadium tonight when his hometown choir performed. He proudly sent this photo to “06880.”

Recent graduate Aaron Samuels poses with his good buddy, the Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story.

Recent graduate Aaron Samuels poses with his good buddy, the Colorado Rockies’ Trevor Story.

O Say Can You See This Amazing Honor Court?

Boy Scout Courts of Honor are special events. Achieving Eagle Scout — and sharing the day with fellow troop members, leaders, family and friends — is a moment any Scout will always remember.

But last Sunday’s Court of Honor at Christ & Holy Trinity Church was extra special.

To open the ceremony — at which Westport’s Troop 100 feted Aaron Samuels, Cole Moyer and John Foley — 3 Staples Orphenians sang the national anthem.

A blog for adult Scout leaders callled it  “musical gold that’ll make you proud to be a Scout or Scouter, and proud to be an American.”

Those weren’t just 3 random juniors plucked off the stage. All are connected with  Troop 100. On the left is former Scout Keanan Pucci; on the right is Life Scout Wellington Baumann.

And there in the middle is Aaron Samuels — singing before becoming an Eagle Scout, on a day no one there will ever forget.

(Hat tip: former Scoutmaster Jennifer Jackson)

Birthday Ball

Today is opening day for the Staples baseball team.

Who better to sing the national anthem than senior pitcher Jack Baylis?

Jack Baylis

Jack Baylis

It’s quite a day for him. After the game, he’ll hustle over to Southport’s Trinity Episcopal Church, to sing with Orphenians.

Plus, it’s Jack’s 18th birthday.

Play ball!

1st inning action: Newtown (at bat) against Staples.

1st inning action: Newtown (at bat) against Staples.