Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pierre Massie Compositions and Arrangements chosen for the Carillon

Update: Dr.Andrea McCrady will play Pierre’s arrangements of two popular carols, 
The Wassail Song and Ça bergers,
on the Peace Tower Carillon for the Parliament Hill tree lighting ceremony  Christmas Lights across Canada
December 5th 2013 between 5:30-5:55 pm. 

She will also play The Wassail Song, Ça bergers and Pierre's original carol, Mourning Dove, at Noon.

As with much of life these days, this story started with an email -- a humble request addressed to Pierre Massie from Dr. AndreaMcCrady, our Dominion Carillonneur.  Impressed by The Stairwell Carollers concert videos on YouTube, she asked permission to arrange one of his original compositions for the Carillon on Parliament Hill.

 Yes, please.
Pierre Massie

Of his many compositions and arrangements, she chose one of Pierre's personal favourites, his contemporary Christmas carol “Mourning Dove.”   
On our arrival at Parliament Hill, Pierre looked up at the Peace Tower, in awe that his music would soon echo from the same bells that have tolled the hours and provided daily concerts, since July 1st, 1927. 

We waited while huddling underneath the overhang at the front entrance.  Just after noon hour, at 12:15, Dec 17th 2012, his haunting melody -- inspired by the lonesome call of the wild dove -- pealed from the Carillon’s fifty-three bells.  It was somehow fitting that rain was falling from grey skies.  It was an indescribable thrill to hear one of Pierre’s favourite compositions performed in such a public manner -- a surreal moment.  

Old print of Parliament Hill
After the Carillon performance, they offered us a guided tour.  We had sung many times with the Stairwell Carollers in the Parliament Buildings, but had never taken a tour.  Later, when Dr. McCrady came down, she greeted us like old friends and immediately made us feel comfortable.  

Tree in center block foyer
Dr. McCrady was sincerely interested in Pierre and his music.  They were of one mind, discussing music at length and completely losing me in the process.  
I’m not complaining -- it was like listening to two geniuses floating ideas while discussing physics.  Afterwards, we followed her down a long stairway, passing through the catacombs of Parliament -- the secret passageways below the buildings -- the only place where I wasn’t allowed to take photos.
In the Dominion Carillonneur’s office, we found the practice carillon, which is a full-size instrument without attachment to the bells.  It has a lovely sound -- charming -- like a giant music box.
Pierre and Dr. McCrady in front of practice Carillon
Watching Dr. McCrady play the physically demanding practice carillon was both exhilarating and exhausting.  She hammered each key with her closed fists while stretching her legs to reach the furthest pedals, exhibiting a high level of musical skill and muscle strength.  Imagine a pipe organ made for a giant.  

Dr. McCrady seated at the Carillon
As we left her office and took the elevator up to the Peace Tower Carillon, I wondered what it would be like.  Considering the high ceiling and airiness of her workspace, I was ill prepared for the tiny, near claustrophobic closet that encases the actual Carillon.  Even the Carillon’s sound has to be piped into the soundproofed room.  In fact, the Carillon is purely a physical percussion instrument, with the bells stationary and the clappers intensity directly controlled by the Carillonneur. All performances of the Carillon are live – there are no electronic bells or recordings.  

The honour of Pierre's composition chosen for inclusion in the Carillons repertoire was starting to sink in.  His music is now going to be a part of music history in the official Peace Tower Carillon repertoire.
Pierre's interview on CBC radio's  "All in a Day"

Emerging from Parliament after this amazing day, we learned that someone had informed CBC radio of our adventure.  Pierre and I hiked over to Sparks Street for an interview on CBC’s All in a Day.

 We'd like to thank Dr. Andrea McCrady for this great honour and wonderful opportunity.  On top of being an approachable and warm person, she has mastered the Carillon -- one of the most imposing musical instruments on the planet.

She's also a doctor of medicine -- an exceptional human being.

Peace Tower Carillon Program for the Tree Lighting Ceremony

Thursday, December 5, 2013; from 12:00 p. m. to 12:15 p. m.
          O Canada
            Here We Come a-Caroling, arranged by William De Turk
Ça, bergers, assemblons-nous, arranged for choir by Pierre Massie, for carillon by Andrea McCrady
Mourning Dove, by Pierre Massie, arranged by Andrea McCrady
Ding, Dong, Merrily on High, arranged by Sally Slade Warner
Wassail Song, arranged for choir by Pierre Massie, for carillon by Andrea McCrady
Deck the Halls, arranged by Milford Myhre

Thursday, December 5, 2013; from 5:30 p. m. to 5:55 p. m.
Christmas Lighting Ceremony Carillon Prelude
Carol of the Bells, by Mykola Leontovych, arranged by Ronald Barnes
Venez pasteurs, by Émilien Allard
Jesous Ahatonhia (The Huron Carol), arranged by Milford Myhre
Ça, bergers, assemblons-nous, arranged for choir by Pierre Massie, for carillon by Andrea McCrady
Wassail Song, arranged for choir by Pierre Massie, for carillon by Andrea McCrady
Snow is Dancing, by Eric West (NL), arranged by Andrea McCrady
Frosty the Snowman, by Steve Nelson and Walter Rollins, arranged by Janet Dundore
White Christmas, by Irving Berlin, arranged by Sally Slade Warner
Brazilian Sleighbells, by Percy Faith, arranged by John Ellis


  1. Very impressive. May I add that it is pure delight to SING Pierre's arrangements. I had the priviliege to sing his very first one (that I know of) " Dors ma colombe." I HOPE THEY ALL GET PUBLISHED one day for future generations of choirs.
    Denyse, soprano

    1. Thanks Denyse
      We will probably go with online publishing, though whether we do it ourselves, or get someone else we are not sure -- someone in the States is interested, but we are worried about the rights.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your music Uncle Pete. I'm proud to know you.....you must be so happy to share in this Canadian moment.

    1. Thanks for the great comment -- I will tell Pete for sure -- wish I knew who this is -- pretty sure it's David :)


You can also email your questions to me - info (at) stairwellcarollers (dot) com.
Holly :)

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