Saturday, June 23, 2018

A weekend away - Part 2 - View from the Chorus - Denyse

Gabe and Pierre pause at the ruins of an old marina on the banks of the Ottawa river
It is the start of our workshop.

Begin. Eyes closed - 2 minutes of quiet deep breathing.

Gabriel, who we have affectionately called Gabe since we met, launches us into the universe of choral singing. Formerly of the group Chanticleer, Gabriel Lewis O'Connor traveled from his home in Seattle to do workshops with the Stairwell Carollers. For two days, we would be his instrument. He would improve what he could in our voices. Crescendo. Decrescendo. Sotto voce. Fortissimo.

Without being a "Stradivarius", we offered him a chorus well prepared by our maestro. Pierre Massie had high expectations. The prepared songs for the upcoming concert were, as best we could manage, note perfect. Gabe could now refine the performance and suggest new interpretation - which he did with humour and respect.
Gabe relaxes with the group prior to the workshop
We were charmed like children and responded readily to his new ideas. For El Grillo, he suggested a nasal voice common in the Medieval era. For the song Ach, wei de Leiden, he insisted on the importance of understanding the words; Schmerzen (pain) must be interpreted expressing the sorrow of love. "If you leave me, I die" - It comes back to that. This is one of the songs we would sing at the concert,  sharing the evening's program with two of the best of Glebe Collegiate's choirs, directed by Rachel Handley. 
Gabe, clearly in his element workshopping the combined Glebe choir and Stairwell Carollers
Saturday afternoon, these young singers joined us and we continued the workshop with them. At the concert, my vocal ensemble performed five songs. Then, it was the turn of the students and finally, the two melded groups interpreted the grand finale. The highlight of the evening: a Gabriel solo. O Hostias followed by O Domine from Fauré's Requiem. When all took their places, we would have heard the ticking of a clock as the audience was so focused. No chorister was at the end of their ropes despite the long rehearsals; neither young nor old.

A little explanation is needed. Fauré's Requiem requires an orchestra. No problem. Pierre had prepared an accompaniment, a harmonization learned with great effort, but what motivation to sing with an ex-Chanticleer! ( This group of twelve internationally renowned American singers will charm Ottawa in July at the Music and Other World Festival.)Gabe was part of  Chanticleer for four years and participated in five hundred concerts around the world!
Giant pines alongside a shady path by the Ottawa river in Arnprior
In short, this last weekend has transported me to 7th heaven. A blue cloudless sky-  and this was literally true. The location, Galilee in Arnprior, a former Oblate convent, is set amidst lush nature adjoining the Ottawa River and we enjoyed wonderful weather all weekend.Personally, I clicked with Gabriel Lewis O'Connor and vice versa. He saw my passion for singing. "I love your smile" he told me during the first rehearsal. I was so stunned that I checked with him if he had spoken to me and not to Maggie right behind me. She always sings with wonderful expression. No, it was me he was speaking to. 
Denyse, a merry blur amidst evening revelry with her Stairwell Choir and Gabe
 It made me blush, I must admit.

All of us now have wonderful memories of the hours spent together as a group.Gabriel enjoyed his experience so much that he wants to visit with his family and perhaps even live there when he finishes his doctorate. 

Imagine if that was true...

Denyse Mageau (translation: Holly Massie - all mistakes are mine)
Cliquez ici pour la version Francais.

Part 1 is HERE
Part 3 is HERE

Learn more about the Galilee Centre
History of the Galilee Centre
Who are the Oblates?
Galilee Centre Mission and Vision

About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while a music student at Ottawa U. 
The Stairwell Carollers are proud to have won both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook sales.
All Donations receive a charitable receipt.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"One Last Song" - Michael McGlynn - Stairwell Carollers, Youtube video

Canadian woods at Galilee Centre
The men of The Stairwell Carollers, perform "One Last Song" - written by Irish contemporary composer Michael McGlynn.
Michael McGlynn, composer for and founder of Irish choral group Anúna

Audio: Tom Barnes.  Recorded at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 3rd, 2017.
Videographers: Richard Auger, Andrew Mason
Editing: Pierre Massie

Michael is the creator of the choral ensemble Anúna. He was thrilled with our rendition of his beautiful song and we applaud his creativity. Anúna is an amazing group that showcases his work. Here is an example.

About Us:

Pierre Massie started our a cappella choir in 1977 while 
studying music student at Ottawa U.  

The Stairwell Carollers scored Gold in both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. A registered Canadian charity, we help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook sales.
All Donations get a charitable receipt.

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