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

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