Classical Music Buzz > The Stairwell Carollers Choir Blog
The Stairwell Carollers Choir Blog
Stairwell Carollers
Canada's bilingual, award-winning acappella chamber choir. En Français - Les Chanteurs Stairwell, Ottawa, Ontario
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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.

3 days ago | |
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Martha stands left of our Director, Pete - after the Carillon ConcertThis 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, Ottawa3. 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 binder5. 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 YESStairwell Carolling in the Rideau Center, 2011
I sang while walking YESCrossing 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 YESAnother 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? YESPaul 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!



5 days ago | |
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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

7 days ago | |
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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
Carollers?

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 1978We 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 himThe name we began with. A rose by any other name. Our Brand. Our identity.
Caroling in Ottawa's Rideau Center, 1986Originality 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
and...

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.


10 days ago | |
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Pete and Diane in the awesome Green room at Rideau HallBack 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 snowThe 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 chopsDress 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 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 2001The 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 HallHuge, 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 eitherOur 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.

12 days ago | |
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Roaring fire in woodstove, Timmins, OntarioFor today, a very Medieval Mass. Sung by only the men of the Stairwell Carollers.

Pierre took the suggestions from historical texts to inform the interpretation.

While listening to this I feel transported back to a time of castles, echoing halls and stone fireplaces.
Ottawa choir, The Stairwell Carollers, perform the Kyrie from Messe de Nostre Dame by  Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300–1377).


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

14 days ago | |
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Forget-me-nots, a sweet romantic flower that returns in the spring without fail
I know it's still snowy out there, and the memories of Forget-me-nots are dim, but like them, we return.

To herald Spring's hopeful renewal, Pierre has started to upload our newest Renaissance Madrigal, Sacred and Contemporary concert video from 2016. Every season helpful volunteers record one of our concerts with 2 to 3 cameras (depending on the number of volunteers and cameras).

Tom Barnes sets up his professional mics with camera volunteerTom Barnes, from Soundscribe, then does a professional audio recording at the same time.

Pete (yes, our director) takes the audio recording and the video and edits them together into enjoyable, high quality individual song videos for our youtube channel.
Pierre archives family photos for funA labour of love.

Our first selection is Amor Vittorioso by Giovanni Gastoldi (1554–1609),  an Italian composer of the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. This piece is available on our “Audite nova” Renaissance Madrigals CD. 
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 "hard to buy for" friend who loves Choral music :)

About the Stairwell Carollers:
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 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.
Check out our blog or visit our website for more Stairwell Caroller news.
Audio: Tom Barnes.  Recorded at St. Barnabas Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 5th, 2015.

Videographers: Luc Nugent, Kolin Cassagrande
Editing: Pierre Massie
17 days ago | |
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Leah, as Back in 1993, Joel Haslam of CTV's Regional Contact  approached us to do a special Christmas segment in Victorian costume. Like we could say no! 
Gladly, we have saved all our TV appearances. Thank goodness, since the terrible fire at CTV studios in 2010 destroyed much of their archives and all old Regional Contact episodes. Pete uploaded the segment to YouTube today for everyone to enjoy. You should see it embedded below.
This would be the second time we appeared on Regional Contact. We were thrilled that Joel got permission to film at the Billings Estate.A group shot at the CJOH studios - lip syncing to ourselvesWhen we arrived, costumes were already there for us to choose from, delivered from Malabar. We all played dress-up to our heart's content. I loved my brown velvet cloak! Being the Drama teacher in the group, I especially enjoyed doing this little Victorian romp!Lisa, John and Holly at the door to the Estate bearing the Wassail BowlJoel and Michelle looked great in their outfits too. Of course, they filmed the intro before we got there. Each of them did their own segments separately back then, so Michelle was not there when we did our taping. Joel Haslam and Michelle Dubois, hosts of Regional ContactWe filmed all the interiors and the walk up to the door at the Billings estate. Everyone got a little cameo scene.
Marjorie, Lisa and Bob caroling in the parlourPete got to do a hilarious bit where he walked back and forth through the trees behind the estate -- so many times! He had to chop away at a little tree repeatedly till the cameraman thought the shot was good enough! They assured me it would survive the abuse.
Our director Pete, pretending to be a WoodsmanThe shot where we are singing by a street lamp were done on set in the CTV studios. At that time we had a makeup person and our own dressing room. We felt like TV stars for sure!
Pete, Stairwell Caroller director, sings tenor - John sings bass Thanks to Joel Haslam, Michelle Dubois, Max Keeping,  CTV and  Regional Contact for the wonderful Christmas season memories!  David, Dawn,Lisa, Holly and MarjorieThe Stairwell Carollers, an a cappella group, formed in 1977 by director Pierre Massie, has earned the distinction of being ranked amongst the best of Ontario choirs.  The group took first place in both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association provincial competition.
Our  non-profit organization raises funds for local charities through concert, CD and cookbook sales.
All our CDs benefit charities and are available in both CD and MP3 formats.Visit our blog or our website for updates.
19 days ago | |
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Pete was in his element  - singing in Ottawa U resident stairwells for our 30th, 2007
Yeah, I know that was an over the top click bait title, but give me a break! 40 years??!! I can't believe it! It seems like just yesterday we were revisiting our Ottawa University residence stairwells to give the students a musical Christmas treat.

Pierre was motivated to do this "40 years of" video for a Grant proposal. I loved it, so he retuned it for YouTube. It gives you a whirlwind ride of our 40 years in about 15 minutes.

The two songs used on the soundtrack are award-winning original compositions by Pierre Massie, Director and originator of The Stairwell Carollers. Permissions granted for additional video included. All photos used are property of the Stairwell Carollers, Holly Massie and Pierre Massie, all rights reserved.
All our CDs are available on our website in both CD and MP3 formats.

Net proceeds from your CD purchase helps Ottawa/Gatineau charities.

About the choir:
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.

Video Editing: Pierre Massie
Still Photos: Holly Massie

21 days ago | |
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St. Columba - our Choir Home away from HomeLast, 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 anglePacked to the rafters yet again, the concert was the best one of the season!
We love the 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!


24 days ago | |
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