Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Stairwell Interviews - Holly - Alto, Facebook, Twitter, all round know-it-all

Me and some guy carolling in the Byward Market
K, this post is about me, yeah I'm talking about myself now.

This not desperate or sad.

I have a reason, just give me minute to make it up..
I mean remember it.

Oh, yeah... thinking ahead to our 40th coming up this fall and into next spring made me want to look back at our 30th ten years ago. Of course, that meant digging through my 10 year old emails to see if there were ideas buried - gems, gems, I tell you - that we could use for the upcoming anniversary.

What? Well, yes, I do have all my emails back ten years -- in fact all my emails from.. ever.

Not desperate or sad. Not.
I have all my photos too - like this one
I found my survey email I sent out to the SC alumni. Including my extremely SERIOUS and TRUE answers.  Here it is. Abridged. Thank me later. Cash is good.

I laughed. If you don't, we can't be friends anymore.
This is my best friend
What is your full name?
HOLLY MASSIE - I forgot the rest, my brain is full

When were you born and where?
DEC 1 1955, ON KRYPTON

Are you married, partnered, or otherwise willingly chained to another - and 
what name do they go by?
YES, PIERRE - the director of the Stairwell Carollers - coincidence?????
Clearly, me and Pete as singing fairies (awesome gift from Maggie, alto)
Any children, or, gasp, grandchildren? If so I'd like to know their names, 
ages etc.
OH MY GOSH, I FORGOT TO HAVE CHILDREN - and I'm getting the T-shirt.

How do you put food on the table and a roof over your head?
I'M A HIGH SCHOOL DRAMA TEACHER - Now retired

Your favourite place in the world?
MY BACKYARD
No need for a cottage
What is your definition of the perfect party?
A SMALL GATHERING OF CLOSE FRIENDS NAKED IN A...
NO, SORRY... STRIKE THAT
A SMALL GATHERING OF CLOSE FRIENDS, A GREAT HOMEMADE DINNER AND THEN RANDOM BOARD GAMES TILL ALL HOURS WHERE EVERYONE LAUGHS SO HARD THEIR FACES HURT THE NEXT DAY.
Or a bunch of musicians that show up to play for your party - bonus!
Why is music important to you?
MY WHOLE FAMILY IS MUSICAL -- THERE'S AN ENTIRE TOWN IN ALBERTA THAT THINKS MY BROTHER IS ELVIS -- REALLY.
THE FACT THAT I MARRIED A MUSICAL GENIUS IS JUST GRAVY
My mom and my brother Clark, or Elvis- as some believe
Tell me about a memorable moment with the Stairwell Carollers.
ONE TIME EIGHT OF US WERE SINGING DING DONG MERRILY ON HIGH ON AN OC TRANSPO BUS AND WE STARTED ABOUT TWO OCTAVES TOO HIGH FOR THE SOPRANOS. WE SANG IT ANYWAY, WHILE LAUGHING UNCONTROLLABLY, AND WITH THE BOUNCING OF THE BUS IT SOUNDED  LIKE CRAP -- AH MEMORIES.
This is the group that sang on the bus
What, in your opinion, makes Pete the successful choir director he is? Give an example to illustrate.
THE FACT THAT HE CAN BURP IN KEY

Not to change the subject, but what's your favourite food?
ANYTHING I DON'T HAVE TO COOK, ok -- A HOME-MADE REUBEN SANDWICH ON RYE BREAD.
I have never cooked a turkey - Pete does it all - even when we visit
And to drink?
ICE-COLD SKIM MILK - or Guinness

What is your secret hobby that few, if any, people know about?
WRITING, LEARNING TO WRITE... IN A LITERARY FASHION - yeah, a blog
Holly M, the internationally famous author
Any dreams yet to fulfill?
I'M LIVING THE DREAM -- EVEN THOUGH SOMETIMES IT SEEMS LIKE A NIGHTMARE

(Holly Massie takes full responsibility for the opinions expressed above. The aforementioned opinions are not necessarily the beliefs and mindset of the more serious members of the Stairwell Carollers -- or of most others on the planet.)

Please DONATE to make our 40th year special for everyone!



Thursday, April 27, 2017

Salve Regina by Francis Poulenc - sung by the Stairwell Carollers - YouTube

Glorious ceiling, Rideau Chapel installation, National Gallery of Canada
I love this piece! It was my first introduction to contemporary choral music and I "get" the dissonance of the modern sound. I like to chalk it up to my general lack of musical knowledge when I learned the alto part so many years ago. I didn't know any  better, no "classical" training -- so I just listened to how the harmonies worked and learned from there. I think my lack of preconception about how this music should sound let me hear when I was doing it right.

Or something like that.

Our CDs are available on our website in both CD and MP3 formats
Net proceeds benefit charity.

The Stairwell Carollers chorus from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, sing Salve Regina - by contemporary French composer Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963).

Audio: Tom Barnes.  Recorded at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 5th, 2015
Videographer: Richard Auger
Editing: Pierre Massie
Photos: Holly Massie
About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre formed our a cappella choir in 1977 while he was a music student at Ottawa University. Since then the Stairwell Carollers have been ranked amongst the best of Ontario choirs in both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. We are a registered Canadian charity, and raise funds for local charities through our concert, CD and cookbook sales.


Please DONATE to make our 40th year special for everyone!



Monday, April 24, 2017

How to take a good group photo - Part 2 - Roll Call!

The photo we started with

With our most recent group photo in the can, the hard work was about to begin. I started by removing excess shadow from a few faces, using a Bloom tool in GIMP to increase brightness in a small controlled area. With the light balanced, I handed the image file over to Pierre to fix it to his liking.

The first thing he did was remove the background with a cloning tool. You can see my poor first attempt near the center of the photo above. Pierre has a better hand at this than I.

Yay, less for me to do.
Me, relaxing between tasks for choir

He then cropped the image to create a panoramic type photo. Then he turned it black and white. This made it much easier to add in photos of members that missed the shoot.

The most time spent was using an edging tool to cut their photos out and layer them into the image then sizing the faces and balancing exposure to match. Pierre's job. Poor him.
The first version, with 2016 members
A new year and changes! Members come and go, so Pete needed to redo the photo to include everyone.

Yay, more for me to do.

I was now volunteered to take individual photos to be shopped into the group photo.
The photographer, impatient with her subject
With a lot of help from Pierre, I brought my camera to choir, set up one light to match the light angle in the photo and with camera on tripod, got all the individual portraits done in a few minutes. Organization!

Once Pete sent me the final image, I added a glow and some contrast to make all the blacks blend together. Done. Finally.

Never. Again.
2nd version with new members for Spring 2017

Please DONATE to make our 40th year special for everyone!

PART 1 HOW TO TAKE A GOOD GROUP PHOTO  - Some basics of group photography

PART 3 - HERE COMES THE SUN -- Taking the group shot outdoors with natural light.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

Da Capo -- 30th anniversary spring tour of la Petite-Nation

Singing on the steps of the Manoir Papineau behind the Chateau Montebello
Looking forward to our upcoming 40th anniversary celebration,  it made me think back to our 30th anniversary (can't believe it's almost 10 years already!) and all of the fun things we did.  I will recap them in the coming weeks up to our start of our 40th year this Fall.

Back in 2008, we did a wonderful tour of la Petite-Nation, just across the water in the Outaouais region of Québec, specifically the lovely region of Montebello.

les Mélomanes, an organization of artists from the area, hosted our tour.
Waiting to sing a Mass in Ripon, Québec

Here is a page commemorating our 30th anniversary visit to la Petite-Nation in Quebec back in Spring 2008. It has more photos and specific details about our tour. Thanks to the organizers and Guy Nantel for the photos :)

Les Mélomanes treated us to a dinner at a rustic homestead farm
We had an amazing meal at a farm.
We sang for our supper :)
Diane, alto, and her husband Ernie provided some entertainment.
Roasting a whole lamb pour le souper à la Ferme Cavalier
The owner of la Ferme Cavalier roasted a whole lamb for us!

Yes, there is more! I will follow up soon with another post about this amazing weekend we had -- lots more memories and a Found-Art gallery visit!



Thursday, April 20, 2017

DONATE to support the Stairwell Carollers 40th year community celebrations


Singing Carols at the NAC, Ottawa in the '80's

Cheers, all you lovers of choral music. My group, The Stairwell Carollers, is coming up to our 40th year this Fall 2017!

Wow! 40 years of entertaining audiences in the National Capital region with our signature brand of a cappella vocals. We have many exciting Choral events for our home town in the works! We can't wait to share how far we have come on this journey.

Our award winning sound, our extensive repertoire and original compositions by Canadian Composers takes us light years from our humble beginnings. Did you know we started as a tiny group of students singing carols in the Ottawa University residence stairwells?

WE can't do this without your help! 
We need $15,000 to get community workshops, Festivals, competitions and special themed concerts off the ground.

Check out our streamlined new Donate page that Pete just created. Faites un don en Français.
Tax Receipt Bonus!!
The Stairwell Carollers are a registered Canadian Charity - all donations are eligible for a charitable receipt!

Here's a 40th teaser playlist that gives you a taste of where we've gone on our 40 year odyssey!



Suscepit Israel - (J.S. Bach’s Magnificat) sung by the Stairwell Carollers

Stained Glass window, St. Martin's church, Ottawa

The Stairwell Carollers perform Suscepit Israel from J.S. Bach’s Magnificat. This arrangement is for the sopranos and altos alone.

Our director, Pierre Massie, normally gives the singers cues while he sings with the choir in the tenor section. This was a natural result of our beginnings as a small caroling group at Ottawa University during the 70's. Pierre always loved singing and in fact got a minor in music as part of his music studies at Ottawa U. He gathered a group of friends together (including me) to sing Christmas carols to fellow students in residence.

In a break from his usual style, he chose to direct this soprano/alto piece in a more traditional manner.  A joy to sing this one, and fun to see our directors face for a change as we perform.


We are an a cappella chorus, formed in 1977 by director Pierre Massie. The Stairwell Carollers have been ranked amongst the best of Ontario choirs in both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions.

Our professional recordings of both Sacred and secular music span all eras. Our CDs and MP3s are available through our website. Your purchase is secure with PayPal.

We need your help to make our 40th year events happen. Please DONATE here We can provide a Charitable Tax receipt for all donations over $25.

A non-profit organization, the Stairwell Carollers chorus also raises funds for local charities through concert, CD and cookbook sales.

Visit our blog or our website.

Audio: Tom Barnes. 
Recorded live in concert at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 5th, 2015.
Videographer: Richard Auger.
Editing: Pierre Massie
Photos: Holly Massie

Monday, April 17, 2017

How To Take a Good Group Photo - Part 1 - The learning Curve


Stairwell Carollers 2017 group photo

How do you photograph a choir group? If you are like us, with a shoestring budget, you depend on volunteers and their varying expertise in photography.

I have an interest in photography, thanks to my Dad's own love of the camera's magical portrait possibilities. 

My dad's gift - capturing the moment - this one before I was even born!

In a previous post I discussed some of the essentials I've discovered  to successfully create a group image. 

Over the past two seasons, our group grew in number and snapping a decent photo proved to be a real challenge. I took advice from many people (thanks Drew - our other choir photog!) my own collection of books on photography and I Googled "group photo how to" .

With such a large group an overhead shot from a large ladder would have been optimal, but proved impossible with the equipment I had available. The weather outdoors was not good, so the shot would have to be from the front in the church.

With this base line the day came to take the pic, but not everyone could be there. No matter the planning, this always happens, In past group photos, we just shrugged and went with the pic of 90% of the group.

The original photo (including members from 2016 ) was taken inside St. Columba Church back in September 2016. 
Before everyone settled down -- OH, BEHAVE!

We used a small light on the floor behind the group to create an attractive halo of backlight. Room ambient light and a light from above and to the left gave the faces definition. 

Oh, so not done yet! 

To be continued...




Saturday, April 15, 2017

Happy Easter from the Stairwell Carollers - an Eastertide Playlist

Baby Canada Goose, By the canal, Ottawa, Canada
I want to wish everyone a very happy and blessed Eastertide. I've put together an Easter playlist to enjoy over this beautiful Easter weekend. I was pleased to discover that we have music from all eras to celebrate this special time.
Songs included:
Ave Maria - Franz Biebl 
Salve Regina - Francis Poulenc
Kyrie - Guillaume de Machaut
Alleluia - Palestrina
O vos omnes - Pablo Casals
O Domine - Gabriel Fauré
Jubilate Deo - Orlando di Lasso
Ehre sei dir Christe - Heinrich Schütz
Regina coeli - Gregor Aichinger
Puer natus - arr Pierre Massie
Happy Easter!

About the Stairwell Carollers:

We are an a cappella group, formed in 1977 by director Pierre Massie. The Stairwell Carollers won First place in both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions.

A registered Canadian charity, the Stairwell Carollers helps local charities through concert ticket, CD and cookbook sales.

Visit our  website.

Audio: Tom Barnes.

Recorded at the National Gallery of Canada, St. Barnabas Church and Knox Presbyterian Church, all in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Various dates.

Videographer: Various -- see individual videos.

Editing: Pierre Massie

Photos: Holly Massie

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spaséniye sodélal composer Pavel Chesnokov - sung by The Stairwell Carollers, YouTube

Stained glass window

Ottawa choir, The Stairwell Carollers, perform The Romantic Sacred piece,  Spaséniye sodélal. Written by Pavel Chesnokov -  Imperial Russian and Soviet composer, choral conductor and teacher.


All Stairwell Carollers CDs benefit charities and are available on our website in both CD and MP3 formats.

We are an a cappella group, formed in 1977 by director Pierre Massie. The Stairwell Carollers have been ranked amongst the best of Ontario choirs in both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions.

A  registered Canadian charity, the Stairwell Carollers choir raises funds for local charities through concert, CD and cookbook sales.

Visit our website.

Audio: Tom Barnes.  Recorded at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 5th, 2015.
Videographer: Richard Auger.
Editing: Pierre Massie
Photos: Holly Massie

Monday, April 10, 2017

Our Fresh NEW LOOK for Spring 2017

White Parrot Tulips, Tulip Festival, Ottawa

Our Wordpress migration will be a while yet, so I thought I'd freshen up our look here at old Blogger.

I kind of surprised myself. First off, I was fearful of applying a new theme, since I've added code to this over the years to tweak it. That will be for another day.

I found a new Font called "Philosopher". It's more like us I think. If it causes any problems in your browser please tell me.

Got rid of the background picture -- old school no more! I think those were popular when the internet had little choice of images and poor photo resolution was the norm. We added anything to give colour to our pages then!

I visited our Shareaholic and Addthis profiles to clean up some annoying old share buttons... and found some stray ancient widgets that slowed up the site in general.

Et, Voilà!

Our New Stairwell Carollers Choir Blog look!

Do you like it?

Spring Choral Concerts are coming up!

Red Squirrel finally enjoying the spring weather
I know it seems early, but with the snow melting and the heavy rains falling, come the sun and sweet promise of spring flowers -- and spring concerts!

Ottawa has Choral concerts virtually every weekend -- many of them announced on our Facebook Page, Ottawa Choir Events Hub

Here's a notable one -- the Ottawa Choral Society has an impressive looking show coming up in May called Ballade to the Moon - check it out!

The Stairwell Caroller concert page is here and we expect more events to be added soon!



Saturday, April 8, 2017

Are you on Twitter?

The Stairwell Carollers on Twitter @StairwellChoir

I've been on Twitter  for many years -- both as myself @HollyWroteIt and the Stairwell Carollers as @StairwellChoir. Yes, I run both. If you want to help managing the Stairwell Twitter profile please contact me, it's a big job and automation only goes so far. Twitter is supposed to be an instant info and discourse platform, so I have to keep my hands in it every day.
Twitter has gained us audience goers at concerts, a wonderful CD review from a composer in England and Youtube fans the world over. It;s a great place for me to share my blog posts, the choir's newsletter and CD's too. The best part is meeting so many choirs from literally everywhere!
I use my own twitter for my political ranting :) meeting authors and artists and musicians, and discovering amazing things about our world. If you are on Twitter and planning to help out your choir or group my creating and managing a profile for them, I would advise keeping your personal stuff and political views out of the choir feed.

I did share this one though.
Twitter was the first microblogging platform created and I'm too old to start something new. However, if you are in the Stairwell Carollers and want to do more on Instagram for us, I have a profile set up you could help manage...

and...

Here's a post about how I learned some Twitter lessons the hard way.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Contemporary Masterpiece! - Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal - YouTube video

Red Tulip, Tulip Festival, Ottawa

In this brand new video upload, we sing "Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal" by Paul Mealor, a Welsh composer. 

This contemporary piece is haunting, etherial and mysterious. A glorious composition that uses the full range of all our voices.

A non-profit organization, the Stairwell Carollers chorus raises funds for local charities through concert, CD and cookbook sales.

All Stairwell Carollers CDs benefit charities and are available on our website in both CD and MP3 formats. 


Audio: Tom Barnes.  Recorded at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 4th, 2016.
Videographers: Luc Nugent. Kolin Casagrande
Editing: Pierre Massie

We are an a cappella group, formed in 1977 by director Pierre Massie. The Stairwell Carollers have been ranked amongst the best of Ontario choirs in both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions.

Visit our blog or our website for updates.



Monday, April 3, 2017

St. Barnabas' stained glass -- a jewel on Ottawa's James street


St.Barnabas has the typical red brick of many Ottawa buildings
St. Barnabas church on James Street in downtown Ottawa is one of our favourite singing venues. It  has amazing acoustics (we recorded our Cantate Domino CD there) within an art-bedecked interior.
Shepherd and the Lamb - stained glass window, St. Barnabas, Ottawa

Mary - stained glass window, St. Barnabas, Ottawa
Bright jewel tones dominate all the windows.
- stained glass window, St. Barnabas, Ottawa

Mary - stained glass window, St. Barnabas, Ottawa
 - stained glass window, St. Barnabas, Ottawa

Simple stained glass window, St. Barnabas, Ottawa

Even the working windows are enhanced with stained glass. The golden glow from these windows flood the church in the afternoon. The contrast in colour to the other windows is striking.
- stained glass window, St. Barnabas, Ottawa


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