Monday, February 27, 2017

Back "home" for our final concert of 2016

St. Columba - our Choir Home away from Home
Last, but definitely not least, our last choir concert of the 2016 season. It was held at our rehearsal and recording home, St. Columba Anglican church on Sandridge rd. Ottawa, Saturday, Dec 17th.
Warming up downstairs before the show
Now that there are so many Stairwell Carollers, the roomy recreation hall downstairs makes a great pre-concert space to warm up.
Before the concert warm up from another angle
Packed to the rafters yet again, the concert was the best one of the season!
We love the "Frank Lloyd Wright" look of St. Columba
The clean lines and asymmetry of the church's design combined with an abundance of natural wood make it a wonderful recording venue. Both for CD purposes and live concerts.
Martha presents the door prize basket to our lucky audience member

Warm sound, warm audience, warm feelings to end our 2016 singing season!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The National Gallery Concerts - part 2, The Great Hall

"Maman" presides over the Great Hall, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

The first time The Stairwell Carollers sang at the National Gallery of Canada, here in our home town of Ottawa, we were in awe of the performance space. Wearing our tuxes, standing on risers, with the gigantic Christmas tree looming over us, I looked out into the Great Hall and it took my breath away. 

Circa 1998 The Stairwell Carollers
Built to mirror the domed Parliamentary library, the Hall's glass facade stretches up forever -- spectacular in a snowstorm. We stood to face the second floor balcony and our voices lifted, echoing -- and disappeared into the distance.  Not the easiest acoustics, but great for the audience.
Great Hall National Gallery Ottawa

One year, I had laryngitis so I wandered the hall and the balcony taking photos of the group. An odd feeling, not singing with the choir -- an experience I am not eager to repeat, but I got some great photos. 
A photogenic choir!Ferris-Manning Photography

That year, we also had a professional photographer,  Mr. Ferris-Manning, who donated all his photos he took of the group for our use. I was forced to admit that his shots were better than mine.

One of the first Stairwell Carollers Great Hall concerts
We always get the same rehearsal space -- what performers call a "green room". One of the most comfy rooms to warmup in that has all the amenities -- bathroom, change room, coat rack, cozy couches for relaxing and tables to get work done. 
The perfect "green room"

Even a sink, fridge and counter space. A bit more comfortable than cramming 26 people into the kindergarten play room of the local church ( seriously -- even the chairs were child size!)

But, I digress. So, I'll stop.
Michèle helps a fan choose a cd.
Thanks again to all our choir singer/volunteers who set up equipment and, of course, especially to Michèle for running our Front of House and CD table.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Holly's top 20 YouTube playlist

Making this list was like a squirrel choosing nuts -- which ones? They are all so good!

One of my fellow Stairwellers, David Rain, suggested I make a Holly faves Playlist on Youtube. He suggested I choose ten of our favourite songs -- a personal choice. I thought it was a lovely idea and took me a whole twenty minutes to put this top 20 together!

I couldn't choose just ten -- that would have taken MUCH longer -- or be impossible, I love our music so much -- to sing, and to listen to.

All our CDs are available on our website in both CD and MP3 formats.  The Net proceeds from your CD purchase helps Ottawa/Gatineau charities.

We are an a cappella group, formed in 1977 by director Pierre Massie. The Stairwell Carollers have been ranked amongst the best of Ontario choirs in both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions.

A non-profit organization, the Stairwell Carollers chorus raises funds for local charities through concert, CD and cookbook sales.

Visit our blog or our website for updates.

Audio: Tom Barnes.  See individual videos for details
Videographer: Richard Auger and others -- see videos for details
Editing: Pierre Massie
Still Photos: Holly Massie

Monday, February 20, 2017

Audition Success! Thanks for coming out :)

Wow! we did so well this last season! We got a lot of new people last year and most of them decided to stay with us for this coming Spring season of Song. It's great to see so many back at rehearsal after the Christmas break. These people all know the commitment it takes to continue to do the work we do. My apologies to our newer members not mentioned in the previous welcome posts are Christophe (already Vice-President of the choir committee), Christina, Ian, Hank, Erin, Darrin, Tobi and Alisdair.

As it seems to happen every season, we lost a few of our newer singers to unavoidable school and work time conflicts or pressures and family issues. A sad but true fact in our modern busy world.
Everyone mid-note

Welcome back from a short hiatus, tenor, Brett, and welcome to three brand new sopranos - Kristina, Aude and Anika :)
New-soprano's-eye-view of our dynamic director

As you should know, being chosen for the Stairwell Carollers has less to do with musical knowledge and more to do with what kind of voice you have. Pierre has strived through the years to maintain a group sound that ensures no matter who comes and goes, we still sound like "The Stairwell Carollers" have always sounded.

Check out our CDs, and you will see how amazing that is -- you would swear it was the very same group that recorded every one!

So, if you tried out and didn't make it, be assured it wasn't because you don't have a great voice or attitude. We are just one of SO many great Ottawa area choirs and there is one out there that needs your special voice!

Pete's not doing a Hula - it's Movable Do.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Stairwell Interviews - Denyse Mageau -- Part 3 - a Rose by any other name?

The Stairwell Carollers have always been bilingual.  

We'd chosen an alternate French name,"L'ensemble vocal des quatre vents", but had to let it go as the meaning was too different. About 15 years ago I had a phone call from the reputed Lanaudieres Festival in Québec asking me  if our group still existed. I answered yes, but under the name Stairwell Carollers.  Nothing came of it.

 Here are the notes I  used as MC with Michael Oullette at a  Concert at a community center -

L’ensemble vocal des Quatre vents a vu le jour en 1978 sous le nom de Stairwell Carollers. Pierre Massie alors étudiant en musique à l’Université d’Ottawa avait rassemblé quelques amis pour égayer les puits d’escalier des résidences pendant le temps des examens de Noël. Cet élan initial culmina quelques années plus tard dans le lancement d’un disque en 1986 grâce à l’encouragement de Gord Atkinson de CFMO.
Stairwell Carollers 1986 vinyl record for Ronald McDonald House

Mais les Carollers étant essentiellement des chanteurs errants, le groupe a évolué.

À la manière des ménestrels, il a voulu chanter la vie, la joie, l’amour durant les quatre saisons de l’année. Son répertoire s’étend donc aux quatre coins du monde. Folklore de divers pays, madrigaux de la Renaissance, musique des grands maîtres, voilà ce que nous aimons chanter sans accompagnement.

Mesdames et messieurs, l’ensemble vocal des quatre vents.

Le ronron de Mélodie, children's book by Denyse Mageau

Another interesting experience I had was being the narrator for my story Le ronron de Mélodie (later published at Vermillon) with children from l’école Cadieux having integrated the choir in my story.

Stairwell Carollers do an outdoor concert in Montebello

Let us not forget the Petite Nation’s tour with a full house for both the concert in Chénéville and the Sunday mass at Ripon. the audience was so enthusiastic, they were on their feet singing “Bravo” after the first song. 

They loved us and we loved them and gave our best. At the church, the mass was advertised as a “Messe concert” Before the ceremony, we sang a few songs, including the 8 parts Pater Noster from Handel, thinking it was too long to sing it during the mass. 

Waiting for the Sunday Mass to begin at Ripon

Well, the priest nodded to us and we sang it a second time before the Agnus Dei. 
Too bad it was not recorded at that time.

Stairwell Carollers sing for Facette Reunion
Then, a few years later, we sang at Facette and met some of Pierre Massie’s relatives that he had not ( or never) seen in years. This made possible by the initiative of Marie-Josée bourgeois of the Melomanes who enjoys doing genealogy research.
The Massie's of Facette, PQ.

I could go on and on but after musing on our past, I come to the conclusion that our choir excels in sacred music.

- Denyse Mageau

You can hear  Denyse's voice on all of our CDs.    
Listen to excerpts of  CANTATE DOMINO - a selection of Renaissance Sacred choral pieces.   Order Cantate Domino

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.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Laudemus cum armonia - an original composition by Pierre Massie - YouTube

Sunrise on the Ocean, Torremolinos, Spain - Photo, Holly Massie, all rights reserved

Ottawa choir, The Stairwell Carollers, sing  Laudemus cum armonia - an original composition by director,  Pierre Massie. Pierre says he has no idea where his inspiration comes from.

No matter, the results are surely inspiring. I hope you enjoy this one - I think it is gorgeous! Please share.

Laudemus cum armonia is the title track of our ”Laudemus cum armonia” Christmas carol CD.  Every Stairwell Caroller Christmas CD has an original composition of Pierre's as the title track.
All our CDs are available on our website in both CD and MP3 formats.  The Net proceeds from your CD purchase helps Ottawa/Gatineau charities.

We are an a cappella group, formed in 1977 by director Pierre Massie. The Stairwell Carollers have been ranked amongst the best of Ontario choirs in both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions.

A non-profit organization, the Stairwell Carollers chorus raises funds for local charities through concert, CD and cookbook sales.

Visit our blog or our website for updates.

Audio: Tom Barnes.  Recorded at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 5th, 2015.
Videographer: Richard Auger
Editing: Pierre Massie
Photos: Holly Massie

Monday, February 13, 2017

The BIG one -- Knox Presbyterian

Like Ducks - calm on the surface, paddling like mad underneath.

On to our 2nd last concert of the season, Dec 16 2016. Knox Presbyterian church on Elgin in downtown Ottawa is the BIG one -- literally. This has become our home in recent years for our biggest concert of the season.  The church has superior acoustics.

Despite looking cool and collected, we were understandably, shall I say - FOCUSED?  I felt bad for our new singers -- a lot of pressure, since tonight they would also be recorded for YouTube! 

David Rain, Composer and tenor, poses with his Muse - the Rideau Falls, Ottawa, Canada

As at every concert this season, we sang David Rain's new composition, "The Rideau Carol" but tonight it would be immortalized on video. No, David wasn't a bit nervous...

and Andrew Jones would not be on edge either, since his father's "Gower Wassail" would be recorded for posterity too. Nope. Not nervous. At. All.

That's about the biggest church I've ever been in -- more like a cathedral!

Okay, we were all nervous. It kept us on our toes.
Setting up lights, sound and risers at Dress Rehearsal

$2000 charitable gift to the Alzheimer Society presented at Knox concert

After the concert, we gave out a door prize as a thank-you to our audience. I make up the baskets myself  and fill them with donated products from local retailers. 

Alasdair announces the door prize winner

Thanks goes out this year to Fabricland on Merivale Rd. Sobey's, Starbucks, Second Cup, Home Depot in Barrhaven and Kit and Kaboodles in Nepean for all the donations of goodies and wrappings and trappings for the 2016 Gift Baskets!

Daughter of our winner, Martha, alto and Alasdair, tenor.

A small portion of the audience at the reception after -- our biggest audience ever!

To learn more about the work of the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County, or to support their Walk for Alzheimer’s fundraiser in May, visit or call 613-523-4004.

Over the years, proceeds from our CD and ticket sales have allowed my choir, the Stairwell Carollers ,to give over $130,000 in music scholarships and donations to dozens of local charities.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Stairwell Interviews - Denyse Mageau, PART 2 - Sacred Music

"Maman" gazing at Ottawa's Notre Dame Cathedral

Singing  the Latin mass at the Ottawa catholic cathedral in the early days of the choir was quite an ordeal, but we pulled it off -- all eight of us singing a capella in front of the congregation!

Singing Latin Mass at Notre Dame de Lourdes,  Ottawa, 1987

At my suggestion, Pierre had accepted to sing at Robert and Racine funeral chapel on Saint Patrick’s street. First, for Madame McNicoll, mother of a friend of mine, then for Pierre Tremblay, editor of the newspaper Le Droit, a friend’s husband.

One of Pierre's haunting warm-up harmonies (normally used at rehearsal) would invite silence and attention without announcing that the choir was to begin. Then, we sang Pierre's a cappella arrangements of Vittoria’s O vos omnes and Pie jesu Domine from Fauré’s Requiem.

We've sung for two memorials at the Beechwood cemetery. A few years ago, we sang  O nuit for Renée Joyal’s (soprano) father. Then, singing for Pierre Chartrand’s sister, Huguette, was also very moving. It was not a mass, but we did sing a Kyrie, and at one point O Jesu Christe. I remember having a blank at the beginning of this one. I thought I was distracted, but joined in and realized we were singing much higher than usual. Luckily, I am at ease in the high notes and I felt the group pulled it off  brilliantly without blinking an eye.

Interpreting a vivid Ding Dong Merrily on High at Paul Churchill's memorial service was also quite moving. He passed away the day after singing with us at Le Mondial in Laval Quebec. Our director, out of town because of family, would have been proud of us to see how professionally we followed Keith Bailey who served as our director.

- Denyse

You can hear  Denyse's voice on our Sacred CD, Cantate Domino.   

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

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.


Denyse's Stairwell Interview PART 1

PART 3 -- A Rose by any other name? -- coming soon.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Village Wedding - a hidden gem from our YouTube video archive

Porcelain Magi, St. Mark The Evangelist, Ottawa

Here we are singing the exquisite contemporary Christmas Carol, "Village Wedding”, written by John Taverner.

This is a personal favourite of mine. I feel so uplifted when we sing it. Oddly, it has few hits on Youtube. Perhaps this is owing to its unusual name, and that it is not "traditional".

Give it a listen.

This version of “Village Wedding” is on our “O magnum mysterium” CD now on sale.  Net proceeds benefit charities in the Ottawa/Outaouais region.

All our CDs are available on our website in both CD and MP3 formats.
Our CDs make a great gift for that Choral music lover who has everything.

About the Stairwell Carollers:

We are an  Ottawa, Canada a cappella group, formed in 1977 by director Pierre Massie. 

The Stairwell Carollers are ranked amongst the best of Ontario choirs in Ontario Music Festival Association competitions.

A registered charity, we are a non-profit choir that raises funds for local charities through concert, CD and cookbook sales.

Browse our blog or visit our website for more info.

Audio: Tom Barnes.  Recorded at Knox Presbyterian Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Dec 12th, 2014.

Videographers: Gert-Jan van Heuzen, Kolin Casagrande, Sam Sloan

Editing: Pierre Massie

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Da Capo -- The National Gallery Concerts PART ONE The Rideau Chapel

Glorious ceiling of the reconstructed Rideau Chapel

The Rideau Chapel is a heritage chapel saved from demolition and reconstructed within the  National Gallery of Canada. A permanent art installation, it is a wondrous space with vibrant live acoustics perfect for choral performance.
Rideau Chapel Stained glass window

When you walk in, you would swear the light pouring throughout the stained glass was from the afternoon sun and that you were above ground.

Rideau Chapel interior

In reality, the chapel is within the gallery building with no natural light whatsoever.
choir closeup at the Rideau chapel June 6 2010

The entrance to the chapel is in the garden atrium -- another piece of slight of hand, suspending disbelief with the lush plantings and massive sky lighted ceiling above.
National Gallery Atrium with Christmas display of Bromeliads

One feels as if they enter the chapel from a gated churchyard garden ( sans tombstones ) .

The Stairwell Carollers 2010 Rideau Chapel Concert

The Rideau Chapel is a perfect venue for our Sacred music and offers such choice in our physical setup. Oh, and the seats were full too. People wandered in from the Gallery when they heard the music and stayed for the whole concert.

Thanks to the kind stranger in the front row who I entrusted with my camera for concert shots. Good times!

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