Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mentorship from across the sea - In Memory of a choral master, Sir David Willcocks

Sir David Willcocks arrangement for The Stairwell Carollers
Sir David Willcocks arrangement for The Stairwell Carollers
The news that Sir David Willcocks has passed on is such a loss to the choral world. We, as a choir, are saddened by the fact that we had never meet him in person, but will always treasure the exclusive arrangement of "We Wish you a Merry Christmas" that he wrote for The Stairwell Carollers. It is included on our "I saw a swete semly syght" Christmas CD.

We are dedicating our new Christmas CD, "O magnum mysterium" and this year's Christmas singing season to the memory of Sir David Willcocks -- teacher, choral director and arranger and inspiration to the music world.

Our director, Pierre, has always strived for Great Britain's "boy's choir" sound. Our most important influencers were always Sir David Willcocks and John Rutter. He has a special fondness for their music. Over the years, both master choral directors learned of our choir and our recorded works and sent Pierre congratulations and postcards.

We subsequently recorded many of their pieces.

Postcard to Pete from John R.
Postcard to Pete from John R.

Here is a playlist of choral arrangements by Sir David that we have sung in concert and uploaded to YouTube. I hope it gives a taste of the creativity and beauty inherent in his choral arrangements.

"Ach, weh des leiden" by Hans Leo Hassler sung by The Stairwell Carollers -- YouTube

Morgan, tenor, adjusts the lights
Morgan, tenor, adjusts the lights
Ottawa choir, The Stairwell Carollers, perform "Ach, weh des leiden" by Hans Leo Hassler (1564 – 1612), a German composer and organist of the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras.
This version of "Ach, weh des leiden" is available on our madrigal CD, “Audite nova”.

The Stairwell Carollers, an a cappella group, formed in 1977 by director Pierre Massie, has earned the distinction of being ranked amongst the best of Ontario choirs in both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competition.

A non-profit organization, we raise funds for local charities through concert, CD and cookbook sales.

All our CDs are available on our website in both CD form and as MP3 downloads.

Buy our CDs and help Ottawa/Gatineau charities reach their goals.

Visit our blog or our website for updates.

Audio: Tom Barnes. Recorded at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31st, 2014.
Videographers: Gert-Jan van Heuzen, Kevin Millington.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Singing Carols in August

Rae sings at The National Gallery for her first Stairwell Carollers Concert
Rae sings at The National Gallery for her first Stairwell Carollers Concert
This is my first Christmas season as a Stairwell Caroller.

The Stairwell Carollers, Knox Presbyterian, Ottawa, 2014
The Stairwell Carollers, Knox Presbyterian, Ottawa, 2014

It's also the first time I've ever played Christmas music in August on purpose.

One of the ways I fit music practice into my overly busy schedule is to listen to the practice files at work. There's nothing quite like writing a briefing note or doing economic research with "The First Nowell" on repeat in my earphones!

Or, I flip through my sheet music with my toddler on my lap on weekend mornings, coffee steaming beside me - as I explain what a page and monarch are and where exactly forth they went together.

Then, my older son wants to decode the notes on the piano, and wonders why the left hand's notes have to have a different clef than the right hand's, and why is it called a clef, anyway?


At which point, he asks impatiently to play a video game instead.

The cat complains meowingly as I hit the high notes, the dog barks along, and my home is once again a madhouse.

Manger Scene
Manger Scene
Christmas carols tell many stories. I distinctly remember learning Away In A Manger when I was about five, and caring for that little baby who didn't cry, surrounded by lowing cattle and hay. Or, falling in love with In Dulci Jubilo when I was fifteen. Or, memorizing the bass and treble clefs with my fingers on the piano keys at some age in between.

Sheet music for Wassail
Sheet music for Wassail
Music has been a cornerstone of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm proud to say that I've made it a cornerstone of my children's lives too. They will never remember learning the lyrics to Christmas carols, because they will always have known them, thanks to listening to me practice them for a third of the year.

"Hark, hear the bells."

Rae P. - Soprano



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