|The Stairwell Carollers, 1978 -- note Dawn's t-shirt I made for her celebrating the name she coined|
For Holly Massie, it all started when she met future husband Pierre Massie in the Marchand Residence of Ottawa U in 1975. He was studying music in French, and she, theatre in English.
It was the perfect match. One thing led naturally to another, and before you could say “do, sol, mi, do”, Pierre had recruited Holly to sing in the stairwells of their residence to cheer up students during exam times.
As she still likes to joke, “My life took a turn for the chorus.”
|Holly and Dawn 1977|
Pierre started recruiting more singers, and by 1977 they had become a tiny choir of ten. They sang Christmas carols that year at the Bayshore Shopping Centre, and caught the attention of Gord Atkinson, who was hosting CFMO radio’s Christmas cheer broadcast.
As Holly relates, “Shaking in our choir boots, we stared at this celebrity as he asked us our NAME.”“WHAT name? We HAD no name…While I was trying not to panic, my fellow alto, Dawn, piped up – ‘The Stairwell Carollers!’ Gord ran with it, the name ran with us – and I’ve been running on the fast track, Stairwell Carolling, ever since.”
|Pierre and Holly July 5 1980|
From these very humble beginnings, Holly has accompanied Pierre on his 35 year journey – developing this tiny group of singers into one of Ottawa’s premier a cappella choirs, with seven professionally-produced CDs to their credit.
The Stairwell Carollers have also developed a humanitarian mission, transforming income from concert tickets and CD sales into $45,000 in donations to local charities.
As well, scholarships worth $11,000 have been offered to high school students pursuing musical studies at Ottawa U itself, and at other Canadian universities.
And this year, the Carollers are returning to within a stone’s throw of where it all began 35 years ago!
You can hear the choir just down the road from Ottawa U this Friday November 30 at St Paul’s Eastern United Church, 473 Cumberland St, at 7:30pm.
It’s a chance to hear some great music and to support the Carollers’ humanitarian work as well.
You can also catch the choir at these concerts in the Glebe and Manor Park areas:
- December 15: Glebe St James United Church, 650 Lyon St, 7:30pm. NB: the Carollers will be presenting a special $2,000 “Christmas gift” to the youth literacy group, Sage Youth-Jeunesse Sage, at this concert.
- December 19, St Columba Anglican Church, 24 Sandridge Road, 7:30pm.
David Rain, who lives near Ottawa U, has been receiving his musical cues from the back of Pierre Massie’s head for the past 20 years. For tickets/CDs, visit: www.stairwellcarollers.com.