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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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.
1 day ago | |
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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 ReunionThen, 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.
3 days ago | |
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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

5 days ago | |
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Like Ducks - calm on the surface, paddling like mad underneath.
On to our 2nd last concert of the season. 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
It's where we chose to present this year's charitable gift to the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County. 
$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 www.alzheimer.ca/ottawa 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.

7 days ago | |
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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.
10 days ago | |
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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
12 days ago | |
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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!

12 days ago | |
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David Rain, Tenor - and composer of The Rideau Carol - stands to the left of the choirOur 4th choral concert of the Christmas season, December 9th, 2016,  was at a brand new church - for us, that is! St. Mark the Evangelist on Fisher Avenue, Ottawa is on the west side of Bank street, inside the city without being downtown.

It's a small church that makes a big impression.
A decidedly unique design, St. Mark the Evangelist, Ottawa, On.
And... we were very happy to see they have a large parking area with easy access to the church. 

A good thing, since we basically move ourselves in for the evening. Singers, cloaks, and lighting equipment and risers take up acres of floor space.
Dress rehearsal night waiting for the choir to arrive
Our warmup room was convenient and the church interior gives the impression of a winter chalet nestled in the Swiss Alps.

Did we travel to the Alps? I'm not telling...
The concert was very well attended -- a full house with plenty of new faces in the audience! Thanks to the church organizers and volunteers who made it so easy for our first concert in a cozy new venue.


15 days ago | |
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Old School Social Media -- CTV's Regional Contact
Yeah, I'm an old lady now. My choir, the Stairwell Carollers, will be 40 years old, Christmas 2017. Pete and I hope to celebrate our own 40th wedding anniversary in 2020.

Me in a plaid skirt before Computers
Computers, yeah, computers...

I was terrified of computers. I couldn't understand them, and then I was forced to use one at work - teaching high school grade 9 Geography.  Screens weren't easy in the 80's. Computers crashed regularly and it was only green letters and numbers on a tiny curved tv screen -- no pictures.

I like pictures.
Detail of stained glass window, St. Barnabas church, Ottawa
Thus, I hated computers.

Fast forward to the 90's. The first video game I tried was Duke Nukem. Awful. Don't.
But...
When the choose-your-own-adventure games appeared in the arcades alongside the pinball machines, the voracious reader in me exulted. One of my Drama students introduced me to Tomb Raider.

Hooked.

I Googled myself. I found out there is an American teacher with MY name who has won awards and is sooo amazing. Sigh.
I was a cool teacher. No awards, though
Cursive writing was always a chore. When I would try, it would fill with loops and knots and mistakes - unintelligible to even me. At work, I would print the notes on the blackboard - the kids correcting my mistakes as I go. They liked that.
My best handwriting
While cleaning out an old filing cabinet after class, the secret of computers came to me in a flash.

A. Filing. Cabinet.

OMGoodness, and they're called FILES! How could I be so blind! And the internet is just a bunch of file cabinets you can search through! Like a huge room of cabinets. And some are locked. And some have little tiny cabinets in them.

Got a laptop, started writing for fun - for the first time since my preteen tapping of angsty poems on an old Smith Corona.

So, while you peruse Facebook's filing cabinets, why not check out the Stairwell Carollers Page -- all our news, photos, concerts, and CDs are there. Constantly updated by choir members.

Please visit and LIKE us.

Ooh, photo apps
We have over 250 YouTube videos to date. All of the concert song videos edited together by our director Pierre. He used Tom Barnes professionally recorded audio done at the same time as the video recording. The only way to better hear us is LIVE or by purchasing our CDs. 

Net proceeds from our CD sales and concert tickets help Charities in the Ottawa/ Outaouais region.

Try Googling us and you'll find us in all the right places and .. some wrong ones. Do not click on the free Mp3 phone ring scam sites. They are not us.

I've learned a lot about Twitter -- and it has changed over the years, but is still the best microblogging platform out there. I even wrote a tiny post about how I learned some lessons the hard way.

Selected Stairwell CDs are even on iTunes.


17 days ago | |
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Dress rehearsal for concert at Knox, Ottawa - lighting and risers setup comes first
Ottawa choir, The Stairwell Carollers, perform Dans cette étable - a French traditional carol arranged by Stairwell Caroller Director, Pierre Massie. A beautiful and delicate rendition of the popular carol,  it is a favourite of the choir.

I love the way the sopranos voices lift gently in the higher parts.

The ending is a bit of a trademark for Pierre. I call it "Tierce de Pierre Massie" (Tierce de Picardie)
The tenors always groan when I make that joke.
This version of Dans cette étable  is on our “Laudemus cum armonia” CD - available on our website and at our concerts.  All 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 - any time of the year!

About the Stairwell Carollers:
We are an 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 11th, 2015.
Videographers: Sébastien Lemay, Kolin Casagrande, Sam SloanEditing: Pierre Massie
19 days ago | |
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