Friday, March 15, 2013

The Stairwell Interviews -- Joe, Prince of Westboro

Joe, tenor, is seriously funny... serious, now
            The Stairwell Interviews - Joe Carew, tenor. Hails from Belgium -- citizen of the world. 

One of the first to reply when I sent out the interview request, Joe -- musical tongue firmly planted in cheeky reply -- made me laugh out loud.

Original questions in RED italics

"I, JOE THE GREAT, PRINCE OF WESTBORO, have been with the Stairwell Carollers for ONE SEASON . I sing BEAUTIFULLY IN TUNE, ALWAYS."

"I've been singing since I was a wee one. It's a great hobby, as it's very portable and you can get involved wherever you go."

Presiding over the food at Josee's Stairwell party
Why choral music? Why not Hip-hop or Opera?
 "I do hip hop and opera as well, actually."

"I will be in La Traviata(Opera Lyra concert performance) on 21 and 23 march at the NAC! come one come all. 
But, I prefer singing in smaller choirs -- there is more sensitivity required from the singers, they have to listen to what others are doing and each voice makes a difference. So for me it's kind of more musical."
What is different about singing a cappella? "The main difference with a cappella is that at the end of each song people test the pitch and say accusingly at each other 'we went down a whole tone!'. "

"Also, you need to have interesting arrangements because you don't have back-up instruments to fill out the sound.
Patapan -- lyrics in old French. Tenor and Bass lines simulate a drum.

What brought you to the Stairwell Carollers? "The wonderful website!" Thanks, Joe!

Joe amuses Rebecca before a concert
With the Stairwell Carollers,

I sang on a moving bus  "NO, not yet :)"

I sang on Parliament Hill   "NO, not yet :)"

I sang inside the Parliament Buildings  "Not yet :) NO"

I sang in pouring rain/freezing drizzle  "No, but I have cycled to the practices in the pouring rain/snow/freezing blizzard, does that count ?" At this point, yes!

I sang while tears ran down my face   "NO - stop blubbing you big babies!"

I sang for a packed house  "YES.  Yep yep yep. It was a good Christmas season this year, eh?"
The Stairwell Carollers 2012 group photo. Joe is right of our new member. the Xmas tree.

I sang beside Santa  "Santa is fictional, so no, sorry."

I sang “Happy Birthday” to a random stranger in a bar  "YES... probably..."

Tenors -- Joe, Morgan and Graham -- prepare, pre-concert at Almonte
Have you had a Stairwell Caroller “Ah-Ha” moment you can relate?  "Not one that could be published. Hee hee."

Sum up our director, Pete, in three words or less... or more...  "Male, Human, Nutty. And WONDERFUL."

So are you, Joe-- so are you.

Joe has sung in choirs in England, France, Italy, Belgium and Canada.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

From YouTube -- 9 Cutest things That ever Happened - Choral composition

Baby Robin -- photo, Holly Massie -- all rights reserved
Denyse found this composer and group on youtube -- an amazing work!  

Please visit their website and buy the sheet music -- details below the video...


Commission an Australian composer:

From the composer, Gordon Hamilton:
"Scott (our producer) and I were chewing over ideas for new video compositions when he found Jack Shepherd's amazing article on BuzzFeed*, "The 50 Cutest Things That Ever Happened" (a cuteness oversupply on an almost cosmic scale!) It was the poetic, pseudo-religious cadence of the photo captions that suggested to me the (mis)use of anglican chant, or harmonised recitative: a chord is notated and the text sung quite freely to a natural speech rhythm. So there is a feeling of incanting a psalm. A psalm about Cute Baby Animals."


COMPOSER: Gordon Hamilton -
PRODUCER: Scott Griffin
LYRICS: Jack Shepherd -
DOP: David Collins -
Engineer: Gareth David
Recorded at Tall Poppy Productions -

The Australian Voices are an Ensemble-in-Residence at Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium."

Notes from Youtube

John Litster directs music for the "Drowsy Chaperone"

John pauses to talk to Genevieve while she sells Stairwell Caroller CDs at an after-concert reception
                          An invitation from John Litster, bass with the Stairwell Carollers... 

As some of you may know, I belong to the Orpheus Musical Theatre and I am currently the Apprentice Music Director for The Drowsy Chaperone which opened last night at Centrepointe Theatre. 

The Drowsy Chaperone is a Canadian music production written in Toronto about 15 years ago and has been performed to great acclaim all over North America. It is a very funny show with great music and dance numbers and we have an excellent cast of just over 20 performers.

The show runs each evening except Sunday and Monday until next Sunday (Sundays have matinees). I am conducting the show next Wednesday and Thursday. If you are interested in a great evening of entertainment, the box office number is 613-580-2700. Here is the link  to the Drowsy page.  


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Photos from CFRA Xmas cheer 2012

Invited back to sing for the broadcast after many years was fun!
    Here are the photos (finally) from 2012 -- the original post HERE.

History of Music -- Historia de la Música (Lecciones Ilustradas)

Setting up for a concert at St. Charles
             Denyse sent me the link to this video, and I hate sharing from a site that simply aggregates links. Solution? -- Find the original and give the artist full credit. Below is the original upload of this wonderful History Of Music posted very recently on YouTube.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Stairwell Interviews -- René Voyer, bass -- and Steering Committee President

René, bass, with his sister Huguette, soprano -- also with the Stairwell Carollers
The Stairwell Interviews: René Voyer 

Here, in 
(mostly)his own words,
 is the tale of René's journey into the Stairwell.
2007 -- singing in an Ottawa U residence stairwell
"I did not choose choral music. I am addicted to it! My family is at fault. They exposed me to choir singing when I was a small child."

 "My parents both sang in the church choir -- and the children, we had to stay in the church after the mass, while they were rehearsing. Soprano, alto, tenor and bass, was already known at an early age. "

"My grandparents, uncles and aunts all sang and played musical instruments at family reunions, so, as a child, I thought everybody had to learn to sing and play."

"My three sisters and I sang together in four-part harmony while doing the dishes and it has been the tradition to sing together when we meet, still today."

"I have sung many styles and forms, but, for me the small a cappella group is the ultimate choir experience. It requires: discipline, control, independence and humility to blend, assurance and courage to attack when it is needed -- without relying on others --  listening for subtle changes of mood created dynamically by the choir, staying on the right pitch."
Rene at left, carolling in Byward Market 2011

"All these things make a cappella singing more demanding and so rewarding when it is achieved. The small choir is nimble, and can express better feelings and moods than the big choir with orchestra. "

"I also like working closely with the musical director. It is a great learning process that I never experienced in larger choirs."

"I first saw/heard the Stairwell Carollers in a Kiwanis competition. My jaw dropped. They were too good. One evening, at a Xmas concert in 2004, Keith announced that the choir was looking for a bass 2 (low bass). I decided to try -- quite prepared to be turned down. "

Obviously, he was not turned down -- his audition blew us away and René has been a bass 2 ever since. 
At the National Gallery of Canada, Rene stands tall

with the Stairwell Carollers, 
René has
sung --
inside the Parliament Buildings, 
at a funeral,  
in a mall, 
while walking,  
for an audience of less than 5 people,  
for a packed house,  
on YouTube on the Stairwell Caroller channel,  
in a fast-food establishment and in a bar,
“Happy Birthday” to a random stranger in a bar,
and, of course, in almost every Stairwell Caroller concert and appearance since he joined in 2005.

René also has some astute observations about our director, Pierre -- and some heartfelt wishes also.

"Pierre is a very competent and capable musician and pedagog. He is so generous with us -- and in return, all choir members want to do their best, and more, to please him and get an "I love you guys!" at the end of a song!" I feel extremely privileged to be one of his "disciples".

Pierre directs the basses
Now, I can't move to another city because of him!"

"This choir is a jewel in the National Capital Region and it is most likely unique -- in the sense that Pierre is both founder and  director. He puts everything into it. Most other choirs seen to have hired directors who are there for a short while and then go. 

Pierre Massie
That makes a big difference. This is Pierre's choir and we need to support him as much as we can to keep him going -- to relieve him from the many worries and tasks related to the logistics of the choir and keep him motivated, inspired and satisfied for many years to come. I also wish that he will find more time to dedicate himself to composition."

*René  did not mention his important contribution to the choir as a long-standing member of the steering committee, in recent years bearing the mantle of President. A future blog post will detail the responsibilities and duties of this post. He also did not mention the guidance he has given The PR committee -- always reminding us that we are a bilingual group with audience on both sides of the Ottawa river.

Thanks for everything you have done for Les Chanteurs Stairwell, René ! à bientôt! 

You can hear  René's deep bass voice on our new CD, Cantate Domino.

Order Cantate Domino Here  

Listen to excerpts of  CANTATE DOMINO - a selection of Renaissance Sacred choral pieces.

Cantate Domino is dedicated to the memory of Paul Churchill, Tenor, whose voice and heart will be forever remembered.

If you live in the Ottawa area, you can purchase our CDs directly from choir members. 

You can also buy them at Ottawa area stores, online, or at our live concerts.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"The Stairwell Interviews" Why sing? Why Stairwell? Why Not!

Giant pile of Stairwell Cloaks after the Xmas season ready for the wash
The Stairwell Interviews will showcase past and present Stairwell Caroller Choristers (over 100 souls and counting)...

One. At. A. Time.

I drafted a few questions, both serious and tongue in cheek, and emailed them out to everyone I am still in contact with. Of course, if you are a past Stairweller please reconnect with us by emailing us at

The Questions --

1. I, ________________have been/was with the Stairwell Carollers for ____________ seasons. I sing _______ (e.g. Alto)

2. Some people play golf, throw pottery on a wheel, write Blogs -- why did you choose to sing? 

3. Why choral music? Why not Hip-hop or Opera? What is different about singing a cappella? Aside from the obvious -- that there is no piano or orchestra... 

4. What brought you to the Stairwell Carollers?
Actual Stairwell singing

5. We’ve had a few interesting singing experiences – highlight yes or no to the following... then choose one (or two or twelve) and tell me more.
Be aware I've listed only my own experiences, so feel free to add to this list – remember this is  with the Carollers – not, like, in your shower, um.. etc..

With the Stairwell Carollers,
I sang on a moving bus YES NO
I sang on Parliament Hill YES NO
I sang inside the Parliament Buildings YES NO
I sang in pouring rain/freezing drizzle YES NO
I sang at an old age home/in a hospital corridor/at a funeral/at a wedding YES NO
Carolling at The Governor General's Skating party
I sang with a raging fever YES NO
I sang while tears ran down my face YES NO
I sang live on radio YES NO
I sang in a mall YES NO
I sang while walking YES NO
I sang for an audience of less than 5 people YES NO
Concert at the Cumberland Museum, Orleans
I sang for a packed house YES NO
A drunk guy tried to dance with me/sang along/yelled in my ear/tried to convert me while I was singing YES NO
I sang beside Santa YES NO
I sang on TV/TV special/live TV YES NO
I sang in a convent for a room full of nuns (sweet) YES NO
I sing on YouTube (that’s most of you -- on the Stairwell Caroller channel) YES NO
I sang in a fast-food establishment/bar YES NO
I sang “Happy Birthday” to a random stranger in a bar YES NO
I sang in/at a ______________________
At Billings Estate for a TV special

6. Have you had a Stairwell Caroller “Ah-Ha” moment you can relate?

And finally... 7. Sum up our director, Pete, in three words or less... or more...

Already I've had some great responses from Stairwellers and will post the first STAIRWELL INTERVIEW soon!

-- from an idea suggested by Stairweller alto, Martha.

* This looks like it will be a lot of fun -- and may be a worthwhile topic to explore on your own choir or group Blog.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Check out "Just Strollin' along -- Blog by Stairwell Alto

Martha, at left, during a break in recording our most recent CD, Cantate Domino
 Martha, a fellow alto, has a personal blog called "Just Strollin' Along". 
I'm guessing the title is a pun on having a child "a la stroller". As with most Mommies, her life is way too busy, so take a minute to check out her blog and give her some encouragement with a comment.

You can also hear Martha's sweet alto tones on our new CD, Cantate Domino.

Order Cantate Domino Here  

Listen to excerpts of  CANTATE DOMINO - a selection of Renaissance Sacred choral pieces.

Cantate Domino is dedicated to the memory of Paul Churchill, Tenor, whose voice and heart will be forever remembered.

If you live in the Ottawa area, you can purchase our CDs directly from choir members. 

You can also buy them at Ottawa area stores, online, or at our live concerts.

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