October 23, 2017

An interview with the Director - Part 2 - A Babe is Born

Pete composes music using Finale

An interview with Pierre Massie (fellow tenor) - Director and founder of The Stairwell Carollers - on the choir's 40th Anniversary 

(this post appears originally in the Stairwell Carollers Choir Blog)

Part 2 - A Babe is Born

by David Rain
I understand you have also written a special composition to honour the choir’s 40th anniversary? 

Yes, it is a bilingual carol called, “A Baby is Born / L'Enfant est nĂ©” Inspiration comes when it comes, in different ways. Part of the melody I used here had already been created years back. I have a folder of melodic ideas. I listened to some of them, chose one and built from that, until the arrangement was almost complete.

I then wrote season-appropriate lyrics in both official languages making it truly Canadian.
Canada 150 Tulip
Do you have any final comments, have there been any changes with the choir these past 40 years that you'd like to highlight?

We change with the years and with age of course.
The Stairwell Carollers, carolling on Sparks Street, 1977
In the beginning our philanthropic adventures brought us all over the city: carolling on a bus, singing for a parking lot attendant, in hospitals, malls, retirement homes, food banks, on the street and live in local markets. Some years we'd perform over 20 gigs at Christmas time. Back then we had the energy for it.
Carolling in the Rideau Centre, late 80's
Our primary mandate is still to educate and promote the public understanding and appreciation of choral music. This is done through presentations of traditional Christmas carols during the Christmas season, and sacred and secular music from all eras during our spring season.
Singing at Notre Dames de Lourdes, Ottawa - early 90's
In order to fulfill this mandate, we encourage professional development and we often have choral workshops and ear training and rhythm activities when we can fit it in.
Rae changes places in a challenging choral exercise
The money we raise is used to cover our annual operating expenses which occasionally includes upgrades to our lighting system, and our media storage for our every growing archives. This allows us to continue providing the global community with an opportunity to experience high quality a cappella singing.

Our library of sheet music, live concert footage, and vocal training podcasts are great educational tools, not only for the choir but also for the general public.

Our many social media sites, such as Facebook, TwitterYouTube, and Pinterest help promote interest in, and give exposure to our genre of music.

We feel it essential to maintain this portal to a repertoire that ranges from the Medieval to the most modern 21st century examples of a cappella singing.
Past winners of the Stairwell Scholarship are announced at a spring concert
Our secondary mandate is to support local charities and provide bursaries to community high school graduates entering first year music studies at a Canadian university.
All remaining profits from CD, ticket sales and concert fees are used for this purpose.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Pierre, and I’m sure I speak for my fellow choir members when I say we are really looking forward to this 40th anniversary season!

David Rain

Please DONATE to support our 40th year events! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concerts and CDs !

The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while he was a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked among the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

Visit our website

October 20, 2017

An interview with the Director - Part 1 - Canadian Composers

Pierre leads the Stairwell Carollers in rehearsal
An interview with Pierre Massie (Director and fellow tenor) - on The Stairwell Caroller's 40th anniversary 

(this post appears originally in the Stairwell Carollers Choir Blog)

Part 1 - Canadian Composers

 by David Rain 

How are you feeling about having led the choir for 40 years?

It gives me great pleasure to have been singing with so many fine people over these past 40 years. We have shared the best possible art form and created jewels of music with each other and with our audiences.

To me, singing feeds my spirit and my soul.
Warmups using movable Do
How have you conceived the 40th anniversary Christmas 2017 program? 

Canada's 150th year happened to coincide with our 40th season. It seemed appropriate to offer an all-Canadian Christmas concert to celebrate both milestones. Online research, contacting other Canadian composers and arrangers, searching though our extensive library of sheet music, is how this year's repertoire was conceived. It's also important to have a good balance of languages, styles and a good mix of traditional Christmas carols that are tried and true, mixed in with works recently created by Canadian composers and arrangers.
Snowy Parliament, Ottawa, 2016
Which composers have you included in the program?

In addition to my own pieces, I’ve included a wide variety of composers from across Canada and across different time periods. They include Manitoba composer Rev. John Black (1818-1882), Alfred E. Whitehead (1887-1974) from Nova Scotia/Quebec as well as noted music educator G. Roy Fenwick (1889-1970) and William McCauley (1917-1999), both from Ontario.
Pierre reviews the music during intermission at a spring concert
We also have carols in French by Quebec composers Maurice Dela (1919-1978) and André Bellefeuille, as well as pieces by noted composers Ed Henderson in Vancouver and Dr. Mark Sirett in Kingston. I am particularly excited that Mark has agreed to lead a workshop for the choir in October.

In addition, I’m also very pleased to include pieces by composers with a special connection to the choir: by former choir member Martin Fairbank, by Robert Frederick Jones (1947-2012), the father of current choir member Andrew Jones, as well as two of your own pieces, David.
David, selfie with muse - The Rideau Falls, Ottawa
Could you say a few words about what inspired some of your compositions that we’ll be singing, Pierre?

Well, one of these is “Eya, eya, gaudeamus”, which in 2007 placed first in the Toronto Amadeus Choir Carol Competition. As with most of the compositions I've written, I started with a melody line and it grew from that point forward. The lyrics are from Latin poems from the middle ages. I have a tome of Latin text and hymns that I use for inspiration. It harkens back to my youth when I would attend midnight mass and sing French and Latin Christmas carols.
Snowy Night with Church
We will also be performing my arrangement of an audience favourite, “Carol of the Bells.” I wrote this in 2016, but we will be doing the premiere performance this Christmas. The motivation here was to create new settings of traditional carols for our audiences, the ones they would recognize as tried and true.  New arrangements of these well known melodies, to give the songs a fresh and different appeal.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Pierre, and I’m sure I speak for my fellow choir members when I say we are really looking forward to this 40th anniversary season!

David Rain
Part 2 - A Babe is Born - will be posted Monday, Oct 23, 2017.

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