Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Carolsong spans the "Two Solitudes" -- a Concerted effort of Joy

We're now halfway through the Stairwell Carollers Christmas concert season with our two biggest concerts still to come.

It's my first Christmas season with this choir.

And it's glorious.

Standing beside our solo bass sing the opening line to Franz Biebel's Ave Maria yesterday afternoon in Arnprior, I felt his deep voice deep in my shoes. I was lucky enough, thanks to the shape of the altar steps that were our stage this once, to be completely immersed in the bass section. I have to admit, it was also a little intimidating, the only first soprano next to these large, loud men... but my fellow firsts weren't too far away, a row in front of me, and my close cousins the second sopranos beside and behind on my other side. Just, not nearly so tall!

Rae, in yellow top, listens to director Pierre from the soprano section
Rae, in yellow top, listens to director Pierre from the soprano section
For me, Christmas has traditionally begun when singing CAMMAC's community "Come Sing Messiah" annual performance. Looking through the sea of 800 singing faces Friday night, I wondered why I couldn't find any Stairwell Carollers! Now, having made it through three concerts in three days, I know. The voice can only bear so much! But, despite handling Handel -- in addition to singing two Stairwell Carollers concerts, I made it merrily through. And now, officially (for me), Christmas is here. Let the baking begin!

The intimacy of our voices, singing to each other, is what marks this choir so much in contrast to the throng of 800 voices singing the Hallelujah Chorus on Friday. When there are only three other people singing your part, and they're not even standing next to you, you can't hide. You either know the music, or you don't (as was painfully obvious, by moi, in the last line of one of our Latin songs Sunday afternoon... an unintended solo... sorry, guys!). Handel's Messiah is so much more forgiving!

Rae discusses soprano matters with Denyse before the concert
Rae discusses soprano matters with Denyse before the concert
Another contrast noticed this weekend was Anglophone vs. Fancophone culture. We sang in small-town Cantley, Quebec Saturday night, and in small-town Arnprior, Ontario Sunday afternoon (both a half-hour drive from my urban Ottawa home), and the two audiences couldn't have been more different. Coming from a fully integrated Quebecois/Ontarian/Francophone/Anglophone family, with every combination of unilingual and bilingual imaginable (to the extent that we speak in both languages at family weddings and funerals), this culture contrast evidenced by the Ontario and Quebec audiences was so typical, it could have been a caricature of our country. Both audiences equally receptive, appreciative, respectful, and into our music. Standing ovations from each crowd. The Quebecois were participative, gasping, singing along, adoring in a tangible way. You couldn't doubt we touched them. The Ontarians were quiet in their awe -- you could have heard a pin drop. So still, so reserved, yet every eye was shining -- their joy in our music fervently there.

We have another week and a half of singing to go, two concerts in urban Ottawa and one in rural Carleton Place. And then we'll each go about our individual, private, family celebrations instead of this communal rejoicing. We'll take it with us, though, wherever we go, having hopefully lifted many other spirits as well as our own.



Stairwell Carollers getting ready for the show
Stairwell Carollers getting ready for the show

The Stairwell Carollers new Christmas Carol CD, “O magnum mysterium”, is now available online, at our concerts, and from individual members of the choir, CD format only.

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

The 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. We are a non-profit organization, who raise funds for local charities through concert, CD and cookbook sales.

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

Visit our blog or our website for updates.

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

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