Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ottawa Race weekend with David Rain, Tenor -- UPDATE!

Thank heavens Ottawa Race Weekend is over, and the cars can take over the roads again! :)

This is just a quick note of appreciation to all of you who supported USC Canada’s Run for Biodiversity fundraiser this year.

Our team of 42 dedicated runners and walkers faced humid conditions all weekend, and some (including yours truly) got royally soaked during Sunday’s marathon and half-marathon, but we did it, and to date, thanks to your donations, we have raised more than $7,000 to support USC’s work with farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America – and donations continue to pour in (pardon the pun) as I speak. I’ll send a final update in a couple of weeks, once our grand total is known.

Out of many great “success stories”, I am particularly proud of my girl friend Geneviève Lajoie, who completed her first half-marathon, and my work colleague Nicholas Galambos, who managed to run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon!

On my side, I had a very positive experience (35 minutes faster than last year), and immensely enjoyed the first 30 km of my marathon. After that, the last 12 km proved to be quite a challenge – not because of the proverbial “Wall” that runners often hit, but rather because the clouds began to burst. I swear I must have been running with an extra 2 pounds due to all the water that had accumulated in my long hair, shirt, shorts, not to mention the puddles in my shoes (extra blisters here I come). Note to file: if rain is forecast, get a buzz cut!

I got great encouragement, as usual, from all the volunteers and spectators cheering along the route, and one sign in particular brought a big smile to my face. On the top it read, simply:


A marathon is 42.2 km, which of course translates into 26.2 miles. The bottom part of the sign got me really chuckling to myself, in the midst of that downpour:

                Because 26.3 would be crazy!

And that about sums it up folks. Thanks again for all your support – until next year!


David Rain Legacy Gifts and Donor Recognition
USC Canada

I'm running wild for food and farmers. Support USC Canada's Run for Biodiversity!

Run for Biodiversity

Saturday, May 28, 2011

2011 Charitable Donations and Scholarship winners -- Announced!

The Stairwell Carollers at Xmas
The Stairwell Carollers, an Ottawa Choir quite unlike any Other

by David Rain, Tenor

Single file, they stride purposefully up the deep stairwell and gingerly place themselves across the narrow church steps, resplendent in their hand-made green and red Christmas cloaks.  An enthusiastic round of applause erupts as a goateed gentleman with heavy black shoes follows them into view and bows humbly in acknowledgement.

He deftly pulls out a shiny tuning fork and with a wide grin strikes it solidly across his right temple.  “Do, sol, mi, do”, he chants to the others, as he steps back to join them in line.  Then, with a subtle lifting of his left eyebrow, the group responds as if one and the joyous strains of “Oh Come, all ye Faithful” are heard ringing through the pews, much to the delight of the gathered throng.
Pierre giving our notes

'Tis a scene repeated time and again each Christmas by what used to be one of Ottawa’s best kept secrets: the 25-voice Stairwell Carollers.

This choir is quite unlike any other. From their very humble beginnings in the stairwells of the University of Ottawa, this tiny group of singers has grown to become one of Ottawa’s premier a cappella choirs, with five Christmas CDs and one Renaissance madrigal CD professionally-produced this past decade.

Their Director, Pierre Massie

Their dynamic founder and director, Pierre Massie, a man of many hats, leads the choir.  For over 20 years, his day job has been music teacher with the Ottawa Carleton School Board, and he is currently Head of Fine Arts at Glebe Collegiate High School.  He has also found time to indulge his passion of leading the Stairwell Carollers since their inception in 1977.
Pete at Cumberland church in the '80's

Pierre is renowned for his unusual style of conducting from within the tenor section itself.  He uses everything imaginable within his reach -- his eyebrows and his eyes, his head, his music book, his nose, his ears, and even his teeth!

Musical Excellence: Provincial and National Recognition

Pierre is also an award-winning composer, twice having won first prize in the prestigious Toronto Amadeus Choir “Christmas Carol and Chanukah Song Writing Competition.”

Pierre, at left,  directs the choir from within

In addition, in the spring of 2010 Pierre led the Stairwell Carollers to receive both provincial and national recognition for their artistic excellence.  They placed First in the Ontario Music Festivals Association choral competition and Second in the National finals, competing with choirs from across Canada.

A Choir with a Difference: Giving Back to the Community

The Stairwell Carollers are not just about music, however.  Right from the get-go, they have been a true community choir in the best sense of the word; and their community has been a vast one indeed.

In addition to the hundreds of concerts performed in the Ottawa-Gatineau area itself, the choir ventures far afield each year, singing in small towns across the Ottawa Valley.  Places like Cumberland, Carp, Pakenham, Almonte, Smiths Falls, Carleton Place, Ripon, Shawville, Merrickville, and Alexandria.  Like the proverbial mailman, neither sleet, nor snow, nor freezing rain can prevent this group of dedicated singers from reaching their distant destinations and audiences.

At a little church in Quebec

Many of these same performances have been benefit concerts for churches or local charities.  This has been an important theme of the choir’s from the outset, and has included singing for convalescing patients in area hospitals and cheering up the less fortunate at soup kitchens.

A Choir with a Difference: Fulfilling a Charitable Mission

The Stairwell Carollers are a registered charity, with a philanthropic mission.  They are an energetic and enterprising group indeed, raising funds for their community through concert ticket sales, an anniversary cookbook and profits from their 6 CDs.

From these proceeds, they have made donations totalling $43,500 to a wide variety of deserving charities in the Ottawa and Gatineau area.  This includes a $2,000 donation to the VON in Ottawa -- to be announced at their upcoming June 18, 2011 concert.

First Place in Ontario 2010 OMFA
A Choir with a Difference: Planting Seeds for the Next Generation

Since 2004, The Stairwell Carollers have established an annual award, the Stairwell Carollers  Scholarship; given annually to a talented Ottawa-Gatineau area high school student who is seeking to pursue post-secondary music studies at a Canadian university.

To date, the choir has awarded the Stairwell Carollers Scholarship to nine gifted graduates – singers, guitarists, tuba players, and composers – each of whom has demonstrated a very special love of music.  They represent a wide range of local high schools, including Nepean, John McCrae, Canterbury, De La Salle, and Ashbury College.

This year's two recipients will each receive $1,000 at the choir’s June 18, 2011 concert, bringing the total awarded to $9,500!


The Stairwell Carollers have brought joy to thousands of Ottawa area music lovers, they’ve given a real boost to many deserving local charities, and they’ve helped inspire and motivate the next generation of Canadian musicians.  They’ve been singing the song of philanthropy for 34 years now, and provide a unique musical perspective to charitable giving in the nation’s capital.

Stairwell Carollers Charitable Donations

Ottawa Civic Hospital, Breast Cancer Unit-----------May 12, 1998                     
Ronald MacDonald House------------------------------September 30, 1998      
Shepherds of Good Hope------------------------------- September 30, 1998      
Bruce House----------------------------------------------September 30, 1998      
Gamma Knife Foundation------------------------------ December 14, 1998         
Cornerstone le Pillier------------------------------------May 23, 2001                 
Shepherds of Good Hope------------------------------- May 23, 2001                 
Multiple Sclerosis Society------------------------------May 23, 2001                  
Ottawa Chapter (Autism Society On.)------- March 3, 2004                
Le chapitre francophone d’Ottawa de la
 Société de l’autisme de l’Ontario ---------------------March 3, 2004               
Le Gîte Ami----------------------------------------------- March 17, 2004            
Élisabeth-Bruyère Health Centre----------------------November 16, 2005     
La maison Mathieu-Fromont-Savoie-----------------May 26, 2007                 
Trait d’Union Outaouais, Inc.------------------------- May 26, 2007                  
Abbeyfield Houses Society of Ottawa---------------- December 15, 2007     
Immigrant Women Services Ottawa------------------December 15, 2007      
Bruce House----------------------------------------------December 20, 2008      
Dépanneur Sylvestre -----------------------------------December 18, 2009       
Ottawa Mission ----------------------------------------- December 18, 2009       
Shepherds of Good Hope------------------------------ June 5, 2010                     
Alzheimer Society of Ottawa & Renfrew County---June 5, 2010                     
Harvest House Ministries------------------------------December 18, 2010      
VON Ottawa-Carleton ----------------------------------June 18, 2011                  


Stairwell Carollers Scholarship

Selina Mcdonell, John McCrae HS--------------------July 4, 2004                  
Corey Payette, Canterbury--------------------------- August 31, 2005           
Genevieve Colletta, De La Salle---------------------- July 22, 2006                 
Corey Arnold, of Ashbury College----------------------2007                    
not awarded
Andrew Burn, Canterbury-----------------------------August 27, 2008           
Geoffrey McNeely, Nepean----------------------------August 27, 2008              
Adel Kerkadi, De La Salle------------------------------October 7, 2009           
Gabrielle Porter----------------------------------------  September 15, 2010   
Celina Hawkins, Canterbury -------------------------- September 8, 2010       
Dahlia Al-Khafajy, Béatrice-Desloges (Orléans)----June 18, 2011              
Nicolas Galuban, Earl of March (Kanata)------------June 18, 2011               


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Podcast #4 — Holly asks “Why do you like singing in a choir?”

I ask some Stairwellers why they like to sing...
I talk to John --  Bass, Diana and Andrea -- first Sopranos and Helen, Susan, Kelly and Nicole -- Altos like me...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

DA CAPO -- Stairwell Caroller History -- "Christmas Holly" CBC special with Holly Larocque 1988

Back in 1988, we were part of a CBC Christmas Special starring Ottawa's own Holly Larocque. Holly was grace personified and the whole choir (all eight of us) couldn't get over her powerful  Julie Andrews-quality voice.

We spent eight hours standing, and singing, on a staircase at the Wilson House at Meech Lake, (where the Meech Lake Accord was signed) and further hours at Bayshore shopping center.The whole cast and crew were so professional -- they made the whole process fun and it went smooth as silk. Pete even got to arrange a special intro to "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" for us to sing with Holly.

The funniest moments I remember were...
-- hair and makeup for the whole cast in the most famous home on Meech lake.Very odd indeed!
-- the crew outside throwing fake snow past the window -- since we had to film in September
-- Holly's dog Marlowe walking off set at the WRONG times (to visit with Paul)
-- Holly "driving" her car to the mall to go "Christmas shopping" (actually being towed) -- like me, she did not have her licence yet! (Since then, she got hers and challenged me -- so I finally took the wheel -- now we both love to drive.)

Me in the middle on the Society page of the Citizen
From the second we met, Holly thought it was a hoot that we shared a "Christmas" name and we kept in touch ever since. I still look forward to her hand-made (by her) Xmas cards. In fact, in 2004, Holly requested my help as 'Charlie' at The Silver Screen Gala she hosted for the May Court club of Ottawa. It was a blast :)

Here is her own online scrapbook with some rare clippings and photos.

Do you remember the Christmas special -- or were you on it too? We'd love to hear from you!

PS I'll say Hi to Holly for you:)

Monday, May 16, 2011

PODCAST - Choir Promotion

Rene Voyer
After a recent rehearsal, I talked to our President, René Voyer, about how a classical acappella choir is not on everyone's top 40 listening playlist. We discuss the challenges in marketing the Stairwell Carollers niche musical style.

Excuse the chattering and laughing in the background. Pierre had just returned from taking 89 students to England and he was regaling everyone with salty stories. If you listen hard you can get two podcast experiences out of one!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tourdion - Claude Gervaise, The Stairwell Carollers, Ottawa

Dancing at a Stairwell Carollers Christmas party

Ottawa choir, The Stairwell Carollers, perform "Tourdion" by Claude Gervaise (1540 -- 1560) a French composer, editor and arranger of the Renaissance. St-Charles Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 8th, 2001.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

CHOIR HOW-TO -- the Treasurer -- NOTEable Mention

If your group collects money, you HAVE to have a Treasurer. The ideal is a knowledgeable, trustworthy person, within your ranks, who can fill the position. Be wary of appointing just anyone -- the responsibility is a huge one and since it involves money, it must be organized and accountable.

We are extremely fortunate to have such a person in the Stairwell Carollers. Susan Pullan, Alto, has been with us since 1996 and her voice can be heard on each of our 6 CDs.
Susan at Rideau Hall in Victorian costume, 2001
Taking notes at  Steering Committee
With the production of our first cassette tape, we realized the need for a formal book-keeper, and Denyse Mageau, Soprano, stepped in as our first treasurer. There virtually when the choir began-- and still in the choir today -- she served valiantly for a number of years, struggling with the number-crunching task without the benefit of computers and spreadsheets. A former member, David Malecki, (Tenor and a computer programmer) took the job to the next level -- a budget with electronic accountability.

When Susan joined the Steering Committee and became Treasurer we had reached a turning point. As each treasurer before, she worked with the tools at hand and gave willingly of her time and expertise. Not only does she continue to fulfill this responsibility with precision and grace, she gives us reports  of sales and our cash flow status.She produces these reports at the conclusion of each singing season -- twice a year.

In all the years since, there has been no other choir member who could replace her as Treasurer with such apparent ease and modest good humour. We are blessed that she is ready and willing to continue performing for the choir both onstage and off.

She also makes a mean Boccocini Salad :)


Because the Stairwell Carollers is a registered non-profit charity, we must hold an AGM (annual general meeting) once a year and share our budget with the membership (the choir's current members). The AGM is usually held at the beginning of September after our summer hiatus. Accountability to your public is priceless. If you have no-one in the choir to do this important job, and a lot of money to manage, you may have to pay an accountant to do the books for you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

PODCAST #1 Our Director tweets in Le chant des oyseaux

Gosling in grass beside Rideau canal, Ottawa

Not Twitter tweeting, but renaissance madrigal birds tweets make up most of the lyrics in the song Le chant des oyseaux.

Our director, Pierre, gives us direction in a particularly tricky section of the song and you'll get a taste of the intricacies of working this renaissance madrigal by Clément Janequin (c.1485-c.1560).

We will be performing the song at our Spring concerts, and it is on our madrigal CD, Audite Nova.

 We'd love to read your comments and opinions about our rehearsal process!

Had you ever heard this kind of music before? If not, tell us!

Stairwell Carollers Tenor, David Rain, in the USC RUN FOR BIODIVERSITY --help 3rd world farmers

Hi folks, it’s me again, pestering, I mean inviting my fellow Carollers to consider supporting my 16th Marathon run here in Ottawa on May 29th. This year, I'm running wild for food and farmers, as a fund-raising project for USC Canada, my employer since 1993. 

I am joined by a record 42 runners and long-distance walkers in USC’s Run for Biodiversity!

You can support our efforts and help farming families in Africa, Asia and Latin America by making an online donation, or by sending a cheque to: USC Canada, Run for Biodiversity, 56 Sparks Street, Suite 705, Ottawa, ON, K1P 5B1.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

PRESS RELEASE - 10th annual Stairwell Caroller Scholarship

Award-winning choir gives back to the community
The Stairwell Carollers at the National Gallery Christmas season 2009
Talented student to receive prestigious music scholarship 
May 9, 2011
For Immediate Release

(Ottawa) – What do a University of Ottawa singer, a Concordia guitarist and a McGill tuba player all have in common?
Selina McDonell (2004), Geoff McNeely (2008) and Gabrielle Porter (2010) are all past winners of the Stairwell Carollers’ Scholarship, given annually to a talented Ottawa-Gatineau high school student going on for music studies at a Canadian university.
To date, the choir has awarded the Stairwell Carollers Scholarship to nine gifted grads, each of whom has demonstrated a very special love of music. They represent a wide range of local high schools, including Nepean, John McCrae, Canterbury, De La Salle, and Ashbury College.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Stairwell Carollers 2011 Spring Brochure *•.¸♫¸. Les Chanteurs Stairwell

et, en Francais en couleur
en Francais en noir et blanc

Confirmed! Stairwell Caroller concerts, Spring 2011 :)

All of our upcoming 2011 Spring concerts are now confirmed and posted on our official website Concert page
Snapshot below :)

"O vos omnes"
Sunday June 5th
National Gallery of Canada (Rideau Chapel), 380 Sussex Drive, 3:00pmFree with gallery admission
Wednesday June 8th
St-Columba Anglican Church, 24 Sandridge Rd, 7:30pm.
Sunday June 12th
Église Saint Joseph de Hull, 245 Blvd Saint-Joseph, Gatineau, 4pm.
Saturday June 18th
St Barnabas' Church, 70 James Street, Ottawa, 7:30pm, (613) 232-6992
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $15

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