Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pater noster, Stravinsky - Stairwell Carollers - YouTube

Medieval style stained glass at Knox Presbyterian, Ottawa

One of our less viewed videos is one of my favourites to sing. It's a Latin version of "our Father" - Pater noster, by Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971), a Russian (and later, a naturalized French and American) composer, pianist and conductor.

This contemporary take on the common prayer is serious and heavy in purpose. Almost threatening in intensity - it is, conversely, a joy to sing. And that's Stravinsky all over!

The Stairwell Carollers have been singing this one for many years, no wonder I catch myself humming it around the house and know it by heart.

About us:
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, March 27, 2017

Auto I LIKE that FB Page? - What Page? Where Invite? Who?

Cool car from Car show in Manotick
Sometimes I think Facebook is like the cool car everyone wants to drive.

You sit behind the wheel, toot the horn, take off and hang your arm out to wave at all your friends.

But none of us really knows how that car works and can barely drive it around the block without stripping the gears.

But, to my point of this auto-analogy...
This one fits all your friends

I've been asking and asking, and ASKING, my friends to LIKE our choir page for, well... years now. I have over 500 friends, and about 175 came through.

OK, you say -- everyone has the right to NOT "like" a page. Our friendship doesn't hinge on it.
if you're akin to me, you may have had NO IDEA that anyone had even INVITED you to LIKE A PAGE.

See, I figure Facebook doesn't care. They do SELL LIKES, after all. 

They have buried everyone's "Page like Invites" somewhere you'd never guess - unless you did a Google search like I did. 
EVERYONE on the interwebs was just as confused as me about the location of PAGE LIKE INVITES.

Here's how to see your "page invites" . At the top of the page you will see INVITES and a number - click the number. There. Voila.

You do have to be on a desktop version of Facebook ( or on your computer) to see your invites. The mobile app does not show it.

Apologies to my friends for the repeated requests, when you were probably like me and just couldn't find this particular snazzy car's hood latch.
a very Snazzy car

Happy Liking!

Friday, March 24, 2017

O Domine by Fauré - Stairwell Carollers, YouTube

St. Stephens Church, Chelsea, Photo, Holly Massie, all rights reserved
Another well-hidden secret from our YouTube vault. If you've never listened to Fauré, well, here is your introduction to a composer of the perfect music for spring!
Get ready for gorgeous - and our choir isn't too shabby either :)

Ottawa choir, The Stairwell Carollers, perform O Domine from the Requiem by Gabriel Fauré (1845 – 1924) --  a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher.

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

The Stairwell Carollers 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, March 20, 2017

New Look Website and Blog -- coming soon for the Stairwell

Yellow Coneflower in full bloom

OK when I say soon, not sure how soon the new website and blog will be up, but you will know as soon as I do.

Big ideas have been shared, big plans have been made and even bigger plans had to be set aside. We aren't computer geniuses here, and a recent foray into the minutiae, details and complications of drafting a new website from the ground up left us spinning in crop circles.
light at the end of the field

Say, what?

Pete and I needed to look at a simpler plug-our-content in option, so, it looks like a nice Wordpress theme or two will do it. We are waiting on our computer geniuses in our pocket -- Cypher Systems -- to start us off right. The when is in their hands now, but personally I can't wait to migrate this beast over.
This is how fresh our new look will be...

I have to thank Blogger for everything, though. I stayed here longer than many, simply because it has served me so well with its ease of adding links, photos, embedding videos, etc.

Lately though, I feel held back by Blogger, rather than helped along. The analytics are sketchy and always have been. You can't dependably turn off your own hits to have a more accurate idea of how many visits the blog is getting. And they have never done anything about referral spam, except to suggesting comment moderation. The spammers are robots that try to leave fake comments with nasty links. Many months after I enabled comment moderation the spam comments slowed and then stopped altogether. Yay.
Bee a loyal blog reader, bees leaf a comment :)

The deal breaker for me is that Blogger is not supported except by user community. We are left alone to try to solve our own problems without any developer assistance. I notice the same questions over and over in the forums -- leading me to believe that only new users are there and old-time bloggers like me may have moved on -- to Wordpress.

I hope Wordpress will give us a more up to date, professional look. I'm also hoping it will be faster and more mobile-friendly, and have other bells and whistles I can discover. A good sign is that professionals in all fields use Wordpress over Blogger.
Wish me luck!

Any advice would be very appreciated. We are doing this all on a nothing budget and are very lucky to have the generosity of Jason and his company supporting us as we go forward.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Stairwell Interviews - Martha, alto 2

Martha stands left of our Director, Pete - after the Carillon Concert
This is a long time coming! I have so many Stairwell Interviews to catch up on - so look forward to getting to know your favourite Stairweller better.

No worries, I won't share who that is. What is said in the Stairwell, stays in the Stairwell.

Do I have favourites? I am only human, so... yes -- but I won't make a list here. Except, I have to admit, Martha's near the top! 

She not only sings alto 2 beautifully and has an A+ for attendance (forgive me, I was a teacher), she does layout for our fabulous Email Newsletter and sends it out. A natural fit since she also manages the mailing list database - Friends of the Stairwell Carollers. She is team leader for our concert MC's and writes many of the scripts used. She is also on the P.R. committee and does many online listings for concerts.

Much has changed since she answered my questions back in 2013, but the important things haven't. Thanks for all you do Martha!

My questions and comments are in RED.

1. I, _____________have been/was with the Stairwell Carollers for __________ seasons. I sing __alto 2_____ Is a "season" one year or one "semester"? I'm either in my 2nd or 4th season, depending on how you count it. (2 Christmas seasons and 2 spring seasons = 2 years).
Martha in 2011- in rehearsal for her first concerts with us

2. Some people play golf, throw pottery on a wheel, write Blogs -- why did you choose to sing?
I sing because I love it!! I have sung in choirs my whole life - school choirs, the Nepean Youth Choir, various Anglican Church choirs, and a women's choir when I lived in Finland. Every time I'm in a new place I try to seek out a choir. It's something I can immediately have in common with strangers, and helps me meet new people.

It's also a spiritual experience. The ancient words of scripture and the Christian liturgy have inspired composers for centuries. The sacred repertoire in particular touches my soul and connects me to the ongoing human conversation with the divine.
Windows at Knox Presbyterian, Ottawa
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...

There's something special about singing in a choir, particularly an a cappella group - it is so much more than the sum of its parts. There is no relying on the accompaniment to get you through. All you have is your voice And that goose-bumpy feeling you get when it all works perfectly is what keeps us all coming back!

4. What brought you to the Stairwell Carollers?

I first heard the Stairwell Carollers when I received an album as a gift from my neighbour, former Stairweller Chris Burn. I liked both the sound and the repertoire. I knew the choir rehearsed just a few blocks from my house, so when I was looking for a new choral challenge, it seemed like a logical group to try. Good choice! (And I LOVE being able to walk to practice!)

Tech-savvy Martha sometimes opts for an iPad over a music binder
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 only listed experiences that I’ve had, so feel free to add to this list – remember this is ONLY with the Carollers – not like, in your shower, um.. etc..

With the Stairwell Carollers,

I sang on a moving bus NO

I sang on Parliament Hill NO

I sang inside the Parliament Buildings NO 

I sang in pouring rain/freezing drizzle YES, in the Byward Market

I sang at an old age home/in a hospital corridor/at a funeral/at a wedding NO 

I sang with a raging fever NO

I sang while tears ran down my face NO

I sang live on radio YES!
Martha chats with Denyse and David before singing on CFRACFRA Christmas exchange broadcast from a local mall

I sang in a mall YES
Stairwell Carolling in the Rideau Center, 2011

I sang while walking YES
Crossing the street for a Byward Market caroling appearance

I sang for an audience of less than 5 people NO

I sang for a packed house YES
Another full house -- 2016, St. Stephen's, Chelsea

A drunk guy tried to dance with me/sang along/yelled in my ear/tried to convert me while I was singing Um, NO (You don't know how lucky you are)

I sang beside Santa - Does Paul in his Santa hat count? YES
Paul always added a cheery note to our events

I sang on TV/TV special/live TV YES
TV promo for 2015 concerts

I sang in a convent for a room full of nuns (sweet) NO

I sing on YouTube (-- on the Stairwell Caroller channel) YES -- Here's just one...
I sang in a fast-food establishment/bar YES, pretty sure some singing happened here...
End of year Choir pub get together 2013 - New Edinburgh Pub

I sang “Happy Birthday” to a random stranger in a bar MAYBE

Clearly I haven't been in the group long enough yet!! I look forward to expanding my list of bizarre choral experiences...

Well, I found a few - not bizarre, but unique...

Martha accompanies Andrea McCrady at a choir Christmas party

Helping out at the Stairwell Caroller stall - Manotick Farmers Market

Martha is in the front row -  Great Hall, Christmas at the National Gallery

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

My "ah-ha" moment happened at my third practice. I hadn't taken the audition process very seriously, thinking I'd be fine given my previous choral experience. (Sorry Pete!) During my first two "trial" rehearsals, I had chatted with the woman next to me, another newbie going through the audition process. We were both enjoying the group and she seemed to be fitting in just fine. Then, at the third rehearsal, she was gone. I don't know if she didn't "make the cut", or if she just decided it wasn't for her, but that's when it hit me - it's a privilege to sing with this group, and it could just as easily have been me who didn't come back.

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

I am constantly amazed by Pierre's command of pitch. He'll sing "this is what you just sang" (and you think, yeah, that's the right note - what's your point?) Then he'll raise the pitch just a fraction of a semitone and sing "but this is where you should be", and it's like the whole world gets brighter and feels lighter, just in that moment. It gets me every time!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

In Remembrance - a contemporary Canadian work - YouTube

Chickadee on Maple branch, winter 2016

Our newest download on Youtube is a personal favourite from our St. Barnabas Spring 2016 concert.

"In Remembrance" is a gorgeous contemporary composition by Eleanor Daley, a Canadian composer of choral music.

The words are from the poem,  "Do not stand at my grave and weep" by Elizabeth Frye.
My sweet Mom, in her favourite spot where she could watch the birds

This was a poignant song for both myself and Pete. It was the poem we chose for my Mother's funeral service back in 2010. It takes a lot of focus to sing it, but reminds me of her kindness and her gentle personality.

Mom was our biggest fan, attending concerts until she could no longer go out. I hope you love listening to this song as much as I love singing it.

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 4th, 2016.
Videographers: Luc Nugent. Kolin Casagrande
Editing: Pierre Massie

Monday, March 13, 2017

What's in a Name? The Stairwell Dilemma

The Stairwell Carollers banner

The Stairwell Carollers.

What's the first thing that comes to YOUR mind? A stairwell?
Caroling in Stairwells at Ottawa U, 2007


Caroling in the snow, Sparks Street Mall

Carollers in a stairwell?

Stairwell Carollers carol in a cozy Stairwell

As long-time Stairweller, Denyse, mentioned in her recent post, for a short time we used the French name, "L'Ensemble de Quatre Vents".

This name translates in English to "The Four Winds Ensemble" After a short period of use we came to the conclusion that it suggested wind instruments rather than voices, so quietly put it aside.

Walking to carol in the next residence stairwell, circa 1978
We started as U. of Ottawa students caroling in our residence stairwells and I've personally always liked the honest, slightly geeky ring of "The Stairwell Carollers"
It's also has an adorable origin story.

Not everyone has agreed with me about our name over the years.

Many Stairwellers have tried to talk us into changing or modifying our name, arguing that it isn't "dignified" or "representative".  Granted, we rarely carol outside anymore and we sing complex contemporary pieces in addition to the traditional carols and madrigals -- Christmas and Spring.

Spring Concert, Almonte 2016

Our decision?
This little guy has a weird name - and everyone loves him
The name we began with. A rose by any other name. Our Brand. Our identity.
Caroling in Ottawa's Rideau Center, 1986
Originality and longevity is the strength of our name, The Stairwell Carollers.
I think it reflects us perfectly, not in a literal sense, but in a metaphorical one.
Pre-concert warmup, St Columba Christmas 2016


Our final decision for our official French name, Les Chanteurs Stairwell was a choir committee decision. Choosing to not translate the English word "stairwell" gives it a connection to our original name.

The fact that it is a cleverly Bilingual name appeals to me. So I'm happy.

Apparently, so is our audience.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

DA CAPO - Stairwell Caroling at the Rideau Hall Skating Party - 2001

Pete and Diane in the awesome Green room at Rideau Hall
Back in 2001, when Adrienne Clarkson was The Governor General, we got to do a singing Gig for the Annual Rideau Hall Skating party.
Driving up to Rideau Hall in the snow
The plan was to remain inside, caroling for the guests when they came indoors to hang out, eat and drink, and warm up from the cold (yes, there was skating outside!)
Soprano, Denyse, shows off her theatrical experience and costuming chops
Dress up time!!

Here's my Blog Post all about costuming  with tips and tricks to pulling together  a Victorian Look!
I want Diane's Hat!
I used my Drama teacher costume scrounging skills to toggle together an outfit for myself  and encouraged Susan, Diane, Denyse and Jen to raid their own closets for pieces to create a Victorian silhouette.
I think we looked amazing!
The men were a problem. No, not like that. There is never anything in a guys regular closet that can approximate Victorian costume, so I went to Ottawa Little Theatre and got authentic Tail Tuxes for them. At the time, Ottawa Little Theatre was the best resource for Fab costumes on a shoestring budget.
The Stairwell Carollers Victorian Troupe circa 2001
The choir was smaller then, but not this small! The gig was a bit of a last minute request, so the most available of us went. It worked out well, with the parts divided fairly equally.

We had a wonderful time singing and soaking up the opulent Rideau Hall ambience. Sadly, we never got a photo with Ms. Clarkson, but I snapped a shot of these guys...
Every day is Costume day for these fellows!
Rideau Hall is a living museum, and it was great to visit, but I can't imagine living there. Room after room are set up as parlours, sitting rooms, dining halls.
Singing in one of the many portrait galleries at Rideau Hall
Huge, echoing spaces with marble floors - a bit cold and castle-like for a home.
Portraits everywhere!
Of course our voices echoed marvellously too. It was very easy to sing there. People were very appreciative and we wandered freely through the endless rooms, singing a couple of songs and then moving on.
I don't think these guys got to eat either
Our only disappointment was that they didn't feed us.

Oh, there was food! tons of food. But, not for... the hired help.

So I took photos in the bathrooms!
Jen in the Rideau Hall facilities

The Director washes his hands in style.

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