Sunday, January 30, 2011

CHOIR HOW-TO -- An Audition Blueprint for choir leaders

Your problem… your chorale has lost members due to change of job, increase in family responsibilities or changing interests.  You realize that you need new blood, but you want to keep a distinctive style and sound. 

Old and new Stairwellers at our 30th anniversary rehearsal

Targeted auditioning is the answer, but – how to start?

  1. Be organized – know what you are looking for – Tenor? Soprano? Tailor your advertisement to target the voice type you need.

  1. What voice style do YOU need? The Stairwell Carollers sound requires clear straight voices. Pierre likes a pure sound – similar to an English boy’s choir.

  1. Like any well-designed interview, an audition should be straightforward, with no surprises. It should cover the skills and knowledge required in a concise way. To join the Stairwell Carollers, a person does not have to know how to read music, so much as be able to learn quickly and keep in tune within a multi-part chorus.

  1. On the day of the auditions, have a member of the choir greet auditionees apart from the audition space. If you must, to keep them from walking in on an audition in progress, post signs to direct auditionees to come in an alternate entrance. The Stairwell Carollers audition in the chapel of St. Columba – in order to hear how well the voices blend. Our greeter waits inside the side vestibule and presents them with the audition sheet. She also notes their time of arrival.

  1. Audition each person alone and then accompanied by choir members from each part to hear the voice blend. A voice with too strong a vibrato or tremolo may stick out and unless the person is willing and able to change that quality, their voice may not be suited to a small choir such as the Stairwell Carollers.
Many years ago -- our tiny group at the Tulip Festival

6. What we call the second “audition” is really for everyone's benefit. Invite the auditionee to come to a couple of regular rehearsals and they will also get a feel for the choir’s style and personality. After each rehearsal, you can ask current choir members for feedback. After the two rehearsals, it should be clear to everyone involved if the person is truly interested and up for the commitment of joining your choir.
Pep talk before a spring show in Quebec

Happy auditioning! 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hear Pierre and Holly Massie interview - In Town and Out, CBC radio 1

CBC Radio Canada

If you are an early bird, make sure to listen to CBC Radio 1 tomorrow morning, Saturday Dec 18th. Pete and I were interviewed by Rebecca Zandbergen and it will be aired sometime during the show.
The show runs from 6:00 am to 9:00 am so it should be a good promo for our final concert that evening :)

In Town and Out Website

cameraman at CBC
cameraman at CBC

Sunday, January 23, 2011

BEHIND THE SONG– Off- Season Buzz– planning the choir year ahead

Although the Stairwell Carollers has not had a rehearsal since mid-December, a lot has been happening that is crucial to its very existence.
The choir Steering committee met to discuss strategy and set  policy for the new year and particularly for the upcoming spring season.
Andrea, Pierre, Susan and Nancy
Our PR committee, notably Anne, David and myself, have been working overtime on and off the ‘Net to round up auditionees for our depleted Tenor  section . Success! A brace of  hopefuls will be auditioning this coming Wednesday – good luck to you all -- and if you are reading this – no worries – you don’t even have to read music – just have a pure clear voice, good ear and great attitude and you are a shoo-in for our group!
Pierre is continually liaising with the committees and choir members  about myriad details.  Besides attending committee meetings, he regularly posts new video on YouTube (our 2010  Xmas concert is in the works) answers email questions almost every day and sets up the entire Spring season for the choir (this task is so massive, it will be covered in a separate post)
At the moment, Andrea -- committee secretary -- is delegating the onerous job of researching  grants.  It is a huge responsibility and will most likely be shared amongst  a few people. The application process for getting a grant can be complex and each one is different. I will post the particulars on any grants we apply for, in a future post, as a help to other non-profit groups in their  funding endeavours.
Youssef, Tenor, focusing lights
External funding can make our choir hum a little sweeter. In the recent past, we attained a Trillium Grant, which helped us acquire proper lighting and sound equipment – greatly enhancing our concerts. We don’t use mikes to sing – but they sure help for speaking to the audience. And as anyone who has seen a Stairwell Caroller concert knows, our concerts are about much more than just the music. We love to share some of the history and little known facts – it adds another dimension to the singing and helps newcomers t connect to the music – perhaps understand the purpose and spirit behind the tune and lyric.
 But, as usual , I’ve gone off on a tangent – to refocus, we seem quiet right now, but are paddling away under the surface to make this upcoming season of Stairwell Caroller song the best ever!

Ducks courtesy of Pierre's brother, Serge

Thursday, January 6, 2011

PRESS RELEASE -- The Stairwell Carollers: Auditions for 2011

A cappella singing at its finest

January 3, 2011

For Immediate Release

(Ottawa) – The Stairwell Carollers are inviting tenors and basses to audition.  Here are the top 10 reasons singers have eagerly sought to be in this bilingual choir, entering its 34th year.

Why Join The Stairwell Carollers?

1.      The tight-knit, intimate style and purity of sound produced by this a cappella chamber choir, first-place winners in the 2010 Ontario Music Festivals Association provincial competition.
2.      The unique experience of singing under the direction of an award-winning composer and arranger, Pierre Massie, who magically leads the choir from within the tenor section.
3.      The chance to sing in a wide variety of languages: English, French, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Polish and Welsh, to name just a few.
4.      The diversity of musical styles: from Renaissance and Baroque to modern arrangements.
5.      The joy of sharing enchanting music with audiences in diverse settings: from acoustically rich churches throughout the Ottawa Valley, to prestigious venues such as the Rideau Chapel in the National Gallery of Canada.
6.      The unique chance to present world-premiere performances of original choral compositions written, by choir director Pierre Massie, especially for the Stairwell Carollers.
7.      The opportunity to record CDs of the highest professional standards (6 so far).
8.      The ability to give back to the community in several ways. The choir is a registered charity and has donated over $40,000 to local charities from concert fees and CD and ticket sales.
9.      The opportunity to reach out to young musicians.  The Carollers sponsor an annual music scholarship competition for area students who intend to pursue a music degree at university.
10.   Last, but certainly not least, the great pleasure of working closely, in French and English, with singers of diverse musical and cultural backgrounds from urban and rural centres throughout eastern Ontario and western Quebec.
If these reasons appeal to you, get in touch with us for an audition.  All you need are a solid voice, a good ear and a great attitude.  Reading music is an asset but not a necessity.  Arrange a time by sending an email message to or phoning 613-746-2779.

The Stairwell Carollers rehearse on Wednesday evenings from 6:45 to 9:00 at St. Columba Anglican Church, 24 Sandridge Rd. (Manor Park).  For more information, visit

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Monday, January 3, 2011


The Stairwell Carollers  -- Les Chanteurs Stairwell
 Looking for tenors & basses for 2011 -- Recherchons ténors et basses pour 2011.
-- auditions CLOSED as of January 26, 2011

 info  (@)
director/directeur: Pierre Massie

First place winners of the 2010 OMFA provincial competition!

Gagnants d’une médaille d’or à la compétition provinciale OMFA 2010!

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