Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sharing the Gift of Song

Choir performing at the National Gallery of Canada (photo credit: Farris-Manning Photography)
(Originally published in Intersection, the internal employee newsletter of Employment and Social Development Canada, on Wednesday Nov 12, 2014)                          
Find out how Martha Patterson, a manager in ESDC's Learning Branch and Stairwell Carollers choir member, has found a way to give back to the community through music.

Many would say that music can warm the heart and feed the soul. The same could be said about charitable giving. The Stairwell Carollers, an award-winning Ottawa choir, have found a way to combine the two by donating net proceeds from their concert ticket and album sales to local charities. 

The power of song

“I'm so fortunate to have found a way to give back to the community by doing something I love,” says choir member Martha Patterson, a manager in the Learning Branch. To date, the Stairwell Carollers have raised over $66,000 (UPDATE: now over $117,000! ) for organizations in the Ottawa–Gatineau area, and for the choir's post-secondary music scholarship program.

For Martha, who has been singing in choirs for most of her life, joining the Stairwell Carollers has been deeply satisfying. “The feeling you get from being part of such a beautiful sound is amazing. And knowing that all of our hard work is benefitting the community just makes it all the more special.”
Martha Patterson singing in a rehearsal

Since joining the group four years ago (now seven), Martha has participated in the choir's first-place finish at the Ontario Music Festival Association competition, recorded an album of sacred music and performed at the National Gallery of Canada. (“The acoustics in there are incredible,” she notes.)

Originally founded in 1977 by a small group of students carolling in the stairwells of the residences at the University of Ottawa, the Stairwell Carollers are known for their beautiful renditions of Christmas carols of all styles and eras. The choir performs entirely a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment) and in the style of chamber music ensembles (without a conductor standing in front of the group).

Learning opportunities

Like ESDC, the Stairwell Carollers strives to be a “learning organization.” Director Pierre Massie, a life‑long music educator, has made it his special mission to bring in talented high school and university students to enrich the choir’s sound and to advance the students’ musical education. These students join voices with the other singers, including some of the group’s original founding members, to form a truly multigenerational ensemble. The Stairwell Carollers is also a fully bilingual choir, aiming to perform equally well in both English and French.

The Stairwell Carollers will be performing in various venues in the Ottawa–Gatineau region through most of December.

About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked with the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

A registered Canadian charity, we help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook sales.

Please DONATE to for our 40th year events! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.

Quand Donner et Chanter S’harmonisent

Prestation de la chorale au Musée des beaux-arts du Canada (crédit photo : Farris-Manning Photography)
(À l'origine publié dans Intersection, le bulletin interne des employés d'Emploi et Développement social Canada, le mercredi 12 novembre 2014)            In English

Découvrez comment Martha Patterson, gestionnaire à la Direction générale de l’apprentissage d’EDSC et membre des Chanteurs Stairwell, a trouvé une façon d’aider sa communauté à travers la chanson. 

On dit que la musique réchauffe le cœur et qu’elle nourrit l’âme. On pourrait en dire autant des dons de charité. Les Chanteurs Stairwell, un chœur d’Ottawa ayant remporté plusieurs prix d’excellence, a trouvé le moyen de combiner les deux en faisant don de tous les profits résultant de la vente de ses billets de concerts et de ses CD.

Un chant bienfaiteur

« Je suis très heureuse d’avoir trouvé une façon d’aider ma communauté, tout en faisant quelque chose que j’aime », souligne Martha Patterson, gestionnaire à la Direction générale de l’apprentissage  et membre des Chanteurs Stairwell. À ce jour, les Chanteurs Stairwell ont remis plus de 66 000 $ sous forme de dons à divers organismes de bienfaisance de la région d’Ottawa–Gatineau ainsi qu’en bourses d’études à des finissants du secondaire qui entreprennent des études universitaires en musique.

Pour Martha, qui a chanté dans des chorales presque toute sa vie, se joindre aux Chanteurs Stairwell a été très gratifiant. « Je retire déjà une grande satisfaction à fondre ma voix dans ce son sublime. Et de savoir que l’ensemble de notre travail profite à la communauté rend la chose doublement satisfaisante. »
 Martha Patterson qui chante lors d’une pratique (credit photo: Holly Massie)
Durant ses quatre années avec les Chanteurs Stairwell, Martha a eu la chance de remporter la première place dans un concours provincial de chant choral organisé par l’Ontario Music Festivals Association; de participer à l’enregistrement d’un CD consacré à la musique sacrée; et de se produire au Musée des beaux-arts du Canada. (« L’acoustique y est incroyable! », fait-elle remarquer.)

À ses débuts, en 1977, ce chœur ne comptait que quelques membres : des étudiants qui, pour se détendre, allaient égayer les cages d’escalier des résidences de l’Université d’Ottawa en chantant des cantiques de Noël. Trente-sept ans plus tard, l’ensemble vocal est reconnu pour la qualité de son interprétation des chants de Noël de toutes les époques et de tous les styles. Ce chœur chante a cappella (sans accompagnement instrumental) à la manière des ensembles de musique de chambre. Ainsi, le directeur chante avec les choristes au lieu de se tenir debout devant le groupe pour le diriger.

Des occasions d’apprentissage

Tout comme EDSC, l’ensemble vocal les Chanteurs Stairwell donne beaucoup d’importance à l’apprentissage. Le directeur musical, Pierre Massie, a enseigné la musique toute sa vie au secondaire. Depuis quelques années, il s’est donné comme mission d’attirer de jeunes talents du secondaire et universitaires dans le but de rehausser la qualité vocale du chœur, tout en leur offrant un contexte leur permettant d’approfondir leurs connaissances musicales. Ces jeunes talents joignent leur voix à celles des autres chanteurs, dont certains sont des membres fondateurs, formant ainsi un ensemble vraiment multigénérationnel. Ils vivent aussi une immersion dans le bilinguisme, puisque les Chanteurs Stairwell chantent aussi bien en français qu’en anglais.

Durant le mois de décembre, les Chanteurs Stairwell se produiront à différents endroits dans la région d’Ottawa–Gatineau.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Stairwell Carollers perform a Renaissance Sacred piece - Regina coeli - YouTube video


Stained Glass, Stittsville United Church
The Stairwell Carollers from Ottawa, Canada sing "Regina coeli". By Gregor Aichinger (1565-1628), a German Renaissance composer.
"Regina coeli" is on our sacred Renaissance CD, "Cantate Domino".
Cantate Domino - Sacred music CD - also available as an MP3
All our CDs are available  for purchase on our website in both CD form and as MP3 downloads.

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.

Editing: Pierre Massie

Visit our website

About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked with the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

A registered Canadian charity, we help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook sales.

Please DONATE to for our 40th year events! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Choral Cacophony Podcast #6 - Fair Sailing in French

Topiary trapper canoes on a sea of flowers at Mosaic, Hull, Quebec
Some of the trickiest navigation for a singer can be pronunciation. Some of the trickiest navigation for a singer can be pronunciation. You can feel like you are thrown about like a canoe in a storm, especially if you are working in another language. To avoid drowning, you need skill - and to be in control.

As a bilingual choir, we regularly sing songs in both French and English - as well as in many other languages. 
French Carol sheet music
To ensure we have the correct pronunciation, we always try to get help from experts -- people who study or first language is the one we are working in. Many years ago, we learned that there are two ways to pronounce Latin - one for speaking and one for singing!

We have been so fortunate to have choir members from many cultures, who speak German, Finnish, Spanish, French - and even proper English! We also reached out to experts to help us sing the Huron Carol properly in the original Wyandot language.

Here is a little sample of Pierre working on pronunciation of a small part of the popular French Christmas Carol, Tous Le Ciel Reluit (All the Heavens Glow).
Please DONATE to support our 40th year events ! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.
About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked with the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook sales.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Interview with the Director - Part 2 - A Babe is Born

Pete composes music using Finale

An interview with Pierre Massie (fellow tenor) - Director and founder of The Stairwell Carollers - on the choir's 40th Anniversary 

Part 2 - A Babe is Born

by David Rain
I understand you have also written a special composition to honour the choir’s 40th anniversary? 

Yes, it is a bilingual carol called, “A Baby is Born / L'Enfant est né” Inspiration comes when it comes, in different ways. Part of the melody I used here had already been created years back. I have a folder of melodic ideas. I listened to some of them, chose one and built from that, until the arrangement was almost complete.

I then wrote season-appropriate lyrics in both official languages making it truly Canadian.
Canada 150 Tulip
Do you have any final comments, have there been any changes with the choir these past 40 years that you'd like to highlight?

We change with the years and with age of course.
The Stairwell Carollers, carolling on Sparks Street, 1977
In the beginning our philanthropic adventures brought us all over the city: carolling on a bus, singing for a parking lot attendant, in hospitals, malls, retirement homes, food banks, on the street and live in local markets. Some years we'd perform over 20 gigs at Christmas time. Back then we had the energy for it.
Carolling in the Rideau Centre, late 80's
Our primary mandate is still to educate and promote the public understanding and appreciation of choral music. This is done through presentations of traditional Christmas carols during the Christmas season, and sacred and secular music from all eras during our spring season.
Singing at Notre Dames de Lourdes, Ottawa - early 90's
In order to fulfill this mandate, we encourage professional development and we often have choral workshops and ear training and rhythm activities when we can fit it in.
Rae changes places in a challenging choral exercise
The money we raise is used to cover our annual operating expenses which occasionally includes upgrades to our lighting system, and our media storage for our every growing archives. This allows us to continue providing the global community with an opportunity to experience high quality a cappella singing.

Our library of sheet music, live concert footage, and vocal training podcasts are great educational tools, not only for the choir but also for the general public.

Our many social media sites, such as Facebook, TwitterYouTube, and Pinterest help promote interest in, and give exposure to our genre of music.

We feel it essential to maintain this portal to a repertoire that ranges from the Medieval to the most modern 21st century examples of a cappella singing.
Past winners of the Stairwell Scholarship are announced at a spring concert
Our secondary mandate is to support local charities and provide bursaries to community high school graduates entering first year music studies at a Canadian university.
All remaining profits from CD, ticket sales and concert fees are used for this purpose.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Pierre, and I’m sure I speak for my fellow choir members when I say we are really looking forward to this 40th anniversary season!

David Rain


Please DONATE to support our 40th year events! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concerts and CDs !

The Stairwell Carollers:


Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while he was a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked among the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 



Visit our website

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Un jour vis un foulon - The Stairwell Carollers, Ottawa

Horse topiary at Mosaiculture, Hull, Quebec
Ottawa choir, The Stairwell Carollers, sing Un jour vis un foulon by Orlando di Lasso.
(also Roland de Lassus, Orlandus Lassus, Orlande de Lassus, Orlande de Lattre or Roland de Lattre) (1530 -1594), a Netherlandish or Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance.

Un jour vis un foulon is on our “Audite nova” CD.  All our CDs benefit charities and are available on our website in both CD and MP3 formats.

Visit our blog or our website for updates.
Audio: Tom Barnes.  Recorded at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 4th, 2016.
Videographers: Luc Nugent. Kolin Casagrande
Editing: Pierre Massie

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


Please DONATE to support our 40th year events! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concerts and CDs !

The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while he was a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked among the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Choral Cacophony Podcast #5 - Movable Do - DOH!

Pierre leads choir in a Movable Do exercise
The Director introduces Movable Do in a warm-up.

Chapter 1 - The Director tunes the choir to a single note on vowels in warmup.
Chapter 2 - The choir sings a scale in two parts with Movable Do Hand Signs (see video)


Please DONATE to support our 40th year events ! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.
About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked with the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook sales.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Interview with the Director - Part 1 - Canadian Composers

Pierre leads the Stairwell Carollers in rehearsal
An interview with Pierre Massie (Director and fellow tenor) - on The Stairwell Caroller's 40th anniversary 

Part 1 - Canadian Composers

 by David Rain

How are you feeling about having led the choir for 40 years?

It gives me great pleasure to have been singing with so many fine people over these past 40 years. We have shared the best possible art form and created jewels of music with each other and with our audiences.

To me, singing feeds my spirit and my soul.
Warmups using movable Do
How have you conceived the 40th anniversary Christmas 2017 program? 

Canada's 150th year happened to coincide with our 40th season. It seemed appropriate to offer an all-Canadian Christmas concert to celebrate both milestones. Online research, contacting other Canadian composers and arrangers, searching though our extensive library of sheet music, is how this year's repertoire was conceived. It's also important to have a good balance of languages, styles and a good mix of traditional Christmas carols that are tried and true, mixed in with works recently created by Canadian composers and arrangers.
Snowy Parliament, Ottawa, 2016
Which composers have you included in the program?

In addition to my own pieces, I’ve included a wide variety of composers from across Canada and across different time periods. They include Manitoba composer Rev. John Black (1818-1882), Alfred E. Whitehead (1887-1974) from Nova Scotia/Quebec as well as noted music educator G. Roy Fenwick (1889-1970) and William McCauley (1917-1999), both from Ontario.
Pierre reviews the music during intermission at a spring concert
We also have carols in French by Quebec composers Maurice Dela (1919-1978) and André Bellefeuille, as well as pieces by noted composers Ed Henderson in Vancouver and Dr. Mark Sirett in Kingston. I am particularly excited that Mark has agreed to lead a workshop for the choir in October.

In addition, I’m also very pleased to include pieces by composers with a special connection to the choir: by former choir member Martin Fairbank, by Robert Frederick Jones (1947-2012), the father of current choir member Andrew Jones, as well as two of your own pieces, David.
David, selfie with muse - The Rideau Falls, Ottawa
Could you say a few words about what inspired some of your compositions that we’ll be singing, Pierre?

Well, one of these is “Eya, eya, gaudeamus”, which in 2007 placed first in the Toronto Amadeus Choir Carol Competition. As with most of the compositions I've written, I started with a melody line and it grew from that point forward. The lyrics are from Latin poems from the middle ages. I have a tome of Latin text and hymns that I use for inspiration. It harkens back to my youth when I would attend midnight mass and sing French and Latin Christmas carols.
Snowy Night with Church
We will also be performing my arrangement of an audience favourite, “Carol of the Bells.” I wrote this in 2016, but we will be doing the premiere performance this Christmas. The motivation here was to create new settings of traditional carols for our audiences, the ones they would recognize as tried and true.  New arrangements of these well known melodies, to give the songs a fresh and different appeal.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Pierre, and I’m sure I speak for my fellow choir members when I say we are really looking forward to this 40th anniversary season!

David Rain

READ Part 2 - A Babe is Born 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Vexilla Regis, sung by the Stairwell Carollers - Youtube video


Gothic entrance to Stittsville United Church
Ottawa choir, The Stairwell Carollers, sing "Vexilla Regis" by Juan Francés de Iribarren (1699-1767), a Spanish late baroque composer.

"Vexilla Regis" is on our Sacred Renaissance CD, "Cantate Domino"

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

Visit our website.

Audio: Tom Barnes. Recorded at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31st, 2014.

Videographers: Gert-Jan van Heuzen, Kevin Millington.

Editing: Pierre Massie

Please DONATE to support our 40th year events! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concerts and CDs !

The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while he was a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked among the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Choral Cacophony Podcast #4 Scales!

Pete "sings" in the kitchen too! Making pesto.
Our director puts us through a warmup of scales.

Tackled - Legato/ staccato, and octave jumps using Movable Do .
Chapter 1 - Warm-up Scales -  staccato/ legato.
Chapter 2 - Warm-up Scales -  up Octave and vowels.
Chapter 3 - Warm-up Scales -  down an Octave.
Chapter 4 - Warm-up Scale on La.

Happy Singing!
Please DONATE to support our 40th year events ! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.
About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked with the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook sales.



Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Choir gets a lift - Solo Saturday on Sunday

Sunrise in Spain.

Rise up, Rise up!

Risers - should you use them or not? The larger the choir, the more tricky the setup.

Long ago we invested in commercial collapsible choir risers. Sure enough, we looked pretty - and professional - perched on  three levels. 

Rex, bass, and Morgan, tenor, set up our commercial risers
Costumes were shown off well and the risers were simple to set up and safe to stand on.
Way back when risers were new... at The National Gallery of Canada
 Despite the onus of storing and transporting these mechanical marvels, we used them at many concerts. We also got used to the squeaks and clinks as the supporting structure complained about the weight of the entire choir. 

A commercial riser is a good choice for looks -- but is it the best for sound?

But then, during our Cantate Domino recording sessions our old risers proved unsuitable. We could not hear each other as well as when we were standing all on the same level. And they were noisy!

Our director made the executive decision to allow the Glebe Collegiate Music Department to use them (as payment for storing them), and to explore new options. 

Jim accompanies Ernie and Rex at a choir pool party

 Jim, master piano player and husband to Susan - alto - took on the task of creating a new set of risers. He designed and constructed them by hand from plywood. Each one is small enough to be easily carried with cutout hand holds.  All different sizes, they fit in each other for ease of transport, taking half the space of the commercial choral risers. 
Individual risers where needed in a snap!The new black risers are virtually invisible.
Now we have endless setups, customizable for each venue. Awesome. 

About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie began our a cappella choir way back in 1977 while studying music at Ottawa U. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked with the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook salesNet proceeds benefit charity.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Stairwell Carollers sing Esto les Digo - YouTube live concert video

Scarlet Lily

Ottawa choir, The Stairwell Carollers, perform Esto les Digo, a Sacred contemporary piece, written by Kinley Lange.

"This a capella setting of a scriptural text in Spanish has been performed widely across the US, South America and Europe, including a performance at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and Carnegie Hall. The harmonic structure is lush and vibrant, tonally based but with colorful non-chord tones. It is contemplative in nature with a pace that makes the Spanish text very accessible for non Spanish-speaking choirs. It ends with a short soprano solo floating above the choir. Also available in an SSAA arrangement.
(from Kinley Lange's website - http://www.kinleylange.com/mixed.html )

If you love our music, a Donation would be appreciated.
Please DONATE to support our 40th year events ! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.
Audio: Tom Barnes.  Recorded at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 4th, 2016.
Videographers: Luc Nugent. Kolin Casagrande
Editing: Pierre Massie

Photos: Holly Massie

Visit our website

About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie began our a cappella choir way back in 1977 while studying music at Ottawa U. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked with the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook salesNet proceeds benefit charity.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Podcast #3 - Warm up those vowels!

Choral Cacophony Podcast #3 Vocal Warmup and mouth positioning for vowels
Our director, Pierre, leads the choir in a warmup to practice proper mouth positioning for vowels. French vowels are included. This podcast can be used to improve your own mouth positioning for singing vowels and as a good general vocal warmup.

Chapters:

 Pierre shows how the mouth position stays the same for all vowels.
Mouth positioning for the English E (as in Wee) and the French U (as in Cuisine)
The Oo sound - lips and tongue, where are they?
Warmup with the vowels, O, Ahhh, French A (as in La), E changing to French U.

About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked with the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

A registered Canadian charity, we help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook sales.

Please DONATE to for our 40th year events! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.



Saturday, September 2, 2017

Choral Cacophony Podcast #2 Fine-Tuning the Chorus

Pierre, Stairwell Carollers director
Choral Cacophony Podcast was recorded at the dress rehearsal for our spring concert at St. Barnabas, June 18th 2011.

Our director fine tunes the chorus
"A Little Pretty Bonny Lass" is a sprightly madrigal with tricky timing.  Pierre's attention to detail -- rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

Rehearsal at St Barnabas
Here's our live concert performance on YouTube.

The Stairwell Carollers, from Ottawa, Canada, sing A Little Pretty Bonny Lass by John Farmer (c.1570 -- c.1601), a composer of the English Madrigal School.

"A Little Pretty Bonny Lass" is on our Renaissance Madrigal CD Audite Nova 
Net proceeds benefit charity.

Recorded Live at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 18th, 2011.

Video: Zoe Hart.
Audio: Tom Barnes
Editing: Pierre Massie

Please DONATE to support our 40th year events ! 
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.
About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while a music student at Ottawa University. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked with the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook sales.



You May also Like...

Popular Posts

Real Time Web Analytics Google
Google