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.

May 7, 2017

Ear Training - from the Directors viewpoint

Pete directs from the tenor section, and sings along as well
(adapted from a post in The Stairwell Carollers Choir Blog)

David Rain, tenor:
 How on earth  do you hear everyone, including our mistakes, while singing along at full throttle?

I'm not sure, but you're definitely right about my being able to hear everything.  It's not necessarily that I can pin point a specific individual culprit, but I immediately know there's something wrong and can definitely tell where the mistake is coming from.  About 90% of the time, I can tell who it is, but tend not to expose individuals.
Pierre Massie directs a rehearsal of the Stairwell Carollers
That I'll do later, one on one or by email, and will make suggestions on how to improve.  It's actually that sort of thing that prompted the ear training stuff on the members' page. ( I will post some links later. )

Pete and his Mom - his biggest fan, she will be 89 this year!
One thing I do know.  I've always been this way.  I come from a family of singers on both sides.  My ear has always been super fine-tuned to identifying wrong chords played or out of tune.  In high school I could always tell if someone in our 100 or so piece band was playing the wrong note.  When I'd mention it, they would always be surprised and wonder how I was able to do that.  Chord structure and progressions of vertical structures has always been something that I am sensitive to.  Not sure where that sort of thing comes from but then again,  Mozart could hear something once and play it on the piano.  Holly always told me I was a bit autistic that way.
Pete and older brother Serge both had bands in their 20's - good times!
Mind you, someone like Susan's Jim... that totally boggles my mind. (Susan is one of our altos and Treasurer. Her husband Jim plays piano by ear and accompanies intuitively) There's no way I could do what he does and I've always been blown away by anyone who could accompany people on the fly.  He seems to be able to fiddle around and fall into whatever key you're singing it as well.

Jim freely accompanies Ernie on fiddle and Diane on Bodhran (choir pool party)
I discovered in my first year of university, that I had a long way to go with pitch corrections.  Three years of sight-singing, interval identification and progressively more difficult music dictations, fixed a lot of that.
Pierre learned a grade 6 on all instruments for his degree ; violin is an ear challenge
I have to say that I've noticed my ear becoming more and more sensitive to intonation as years progress.  I seem to pick out more and more as we go along.  That could be because the choir is stronger than before and so slight intonation errors are more  noticeable than they used to be.

Mysteries of life, eh David?  It's what makes all of us so interesting.

David, holding his choir book mainly for show, sings most pieces by heart.
P.S. Thanks so much for knowing the music so well.  It's always nice to see a person who puts in the effort and time to make sure our performances are the best they can be.
(From an email correspondence between David and Pierre)

Ciao, Pierre

March 22, 2017

A cappella arrangement of the classic Christmas Carol, O Holy Night - for digital download

St Stephen's in Chelsea, PQ
The sheet music for my original bilingual arrangement of the classic Christmas Carol, O Holy Night,  is now available for digital download from SMP Press. 

If you have been looking for that voice only choral version of this famous carol for your SATB choir -- here it is! The signature organ accompaniment to this piece made it challenging to set a cappella. 

This setting I created "sans accompagnement" has worked really well for my choir. 

It's an excellent ending piece to a Christmas concert that'll bring down the house. 

Here is a recent performance of my arrangement by my choir. 

Standing ovation guaranteed.

Visit my choir's YouTube channel for other samples of my work, sung by my choir, The Stairwell Carollers.



March 20, 2017

Laudemus cum armonia - now available for SATB choir

Stained Glass window, Trinity United, Ottawa
The sheet music for my original Christmas Carol,  Laudemus cum armonia,  is now available for digital download from SMP Press. 

Laudemus cum armonia, "Let us praise with harmony",  is hymn-like in nature and one of the favorites of my choir.

The song works well as a sacred song of praise and also as a Christmas carol as it describes the festival of the child's birth.

Visit my choir's YouTube channel for other samples of my work, sung by my choir, The Stairwell Carollers.



January 26, 2017

The Carillon Concert was wonderful! Thank you Andrea!

The Peace Tower, home of Ottawa's 53 bell Carillon

(Article also posted to the Stairwell Caroller Choir Blog)

Another fun trip up the Tower for a very special Carillon Concert. This time, our Dominion Carillonneur, Andrea McCrady,  treated me with a program all my own!

about 183 steps to the Carillon keyboard room
The elevator was out of service, so we all huffed and puffed our way up to the keyboard room.

Andrea poses with me in the keyboard room

As Holly mentioned in the post announcing this upcoming concert, Dr. McCrady is gratified that she has found a composer "in her own backyard" whose compositions and arrangements seem so fitting to the requirements of the Carillon.

She played my Stairwell Carol so beautifully! Here it is! Enjoy! Concert date was Noon, Monday, December 12th, 2016.

Pierre poses in the Great Hall with Stairwellers, David, Martha, Maggie and Manon

Here's an article by the Toronto star about Andrea and her "high-level" (pun intended) job.

Ciao, Pierre
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