Friday, July 8, 2011

NOTEable Mention -- our Director, Pierre Massie, Master Maestro, Master Teacher

The Stairwell Carollers in 1977 - Ottawa University students
Pierre (Pete) Massie founded the " Stairwell Carollers " in 1977 and (in his own words) has had the honour and privilege of directing the group ever since.

Hailing from the frozen northern town of Timmins, Ontario, Pierre won first place in the local Kiwanis music festival in the vocal category when he was only 9.
Pierre Massie studied all band instruments for his music degree, including violin.
Pete in 1976 -- 2nd year Ottawa University -- learning violin

Pierre began his University career at Ottawa University in 1975, with a Major in Saxophone and a Minor in Voice. Under the expert guidance of his voice teacher, Gloria Richard, he received his Bachelor of Music and his Bachelor of Education in 1980. He recalls how he would often tease Angela Hewitt by banging on the piano or on a drum kit in a nearby cubicle. He achieved a Grade 6 Conservatory equivalence on all brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments, as well as violin.

After graduation in 1980, Pete had a 3-year  teaching stint back in his hometown of Timmins. While teaching full-time he sang lead for his successful top 40 rock cover band, LEGACY, and had the occasion to give new-comer Shania Twain vocal tips. Pete returned in 1984 to our Nations Capital and has made Ottawa his home ever since.
In 1991, he co-authored one of the few French music theory manuals in publication here in Canada, commissioned by the Ministry of Education: Concepts musicaux I / Pierre Massie, Richard Ranger ; Denis Proulx, coordination.

In 1995, Michel Benac of SWING fame, joined the group. Consequently, Pierre joined Michel's a cappella group, SAIJ (Saturday Afternoon In July). SAIJ went on to win the prix Trille Or 2003 for best new group.
Pierre in SAIJ - a cappella group, led by Michel Benac, of LGS - Le Group Swing
SAIJ -- Michel Benac on left next to Pierre

Several music composition awards are to his credit, including First Place for his original composition "I Saw a Swete Semly Syght" in the Toronto Amadeus Choir's International Christmas Song Competition. His lovely carol premiered Dec. 5, 1999 at the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto and was broadcast nationally on CBC radio on Christmas day. Again in 2007, Pierre took first place in the same competition for "Eya, eya, gaudeamus". The piece was performed in Toronto by the Amadeus Choir on Friday, December 14, at the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church. Again this year, Pierre won honourable mention in the Amadeus competition for his composition "Laudemus cum armonia".
Pierre has been a music teacher in the Ottawa/Carleton School Board since 1987. When he taught at Osgoode Township High School in Metcalfe, he founded a Stomp - inspired percussion group he dubbed OFFBEAT. On a trip to New York, he met with the cast of STOMP who gave him invaluable advice about broom upkeep and encouragement for OFFBEAT's continued success.

Over his 13 years at Osgoode, he directed a complex musical variety show each spring, showcasing the huge musical talent in the tiny 700-student school.  Spectacular musical numbers from CATS, The PHANTOM of the OPERA, Les MISERABLES and others were featured. The high school had to hold two performances over two nights to accommodate the over 1500 audience members in attendance.Not an easy feat considering the fact that there was no auditorium and the school had to give up a main gym for a week in preparation. The show became a major event at the school and the phys ed teachers willingly took classes outside and sometimes across the street to the community centre to accommodate the extravaganza.

Pierre Massie, in choir cloak, directs the Stairwell Carollers from the tenor section

As the only one capable to teach the group, Pierre took OFFBEAT with him to his current position as Head of Fine Arts at Glebe Collegiate High School. OFFBEAT  is now a credited Music percussion course there. OFFBEAT wins Gold at every Music festival they enter, and are usually the only ones in their category. To perform in Festival, the pieces had to have a score, and Pierre developed his own transcription language for basketballs, brooms, garbage cans and plastic. For those who don't know, the festivals are not competitive and the Gold ranking is only conferred on a group that has very high marks from the adjudicators.

For two years, Pete was Director of the Osgoode Arts Council, where he learned invaluable information about arts organizations and community responsibilities.

Meanwhile, the choir was improving -- and through specific fund-raising, was able to produce the first CD, Qui Creavit Celum. Pierre then launched our website,  , which he designed from the ground up, learning how to heft HTML like a pro.
Pierre composes at his Mac
Composer, Pierre Massie
Often over summer vacation Pete is taken by the composition muse and disappears to our back porch for hours at a time. Inspiration can be a storm, a mourning dove or  just  the sound of the wind in the trees.

I'm just tagging along, enjoying the ride.

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

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