Saturday, October 9, 2010

Da Capo -- On our 30th year Celebration 2007


Pierre Massie and Stairwell Carollers old and new
Pete directs at the rehearsal with returning Stairwellers for the 30th reunion celebration
 Da Capo  
-- celebrating the choir's past -- illuminating our present 
-- inspiring our future...

On our 30th year -- by David Rain, Tenor 
December, 2007

Single file, they stride purposefully up the deep stairwell and gingerly place themselves across the narrow church steps, resplendent in their hand-made green and red Christmas cloaks. A warm round of applause erupts as a goateed, golden-haired gentleman with heavy black shoes follows them into view and bows humbly in acknowledgement.
Dress rehearsal for the Stairwell Carollers 30th Anniversary concert
Dress rehearsal
From under his cloak, he deftly pulls out a shiny tuning fork and with a wide grin strikes it solidly across his right temple. “Do, so, me, do”, he can be heard chanting to the others, as he steps back to join them in line. Then, with a subtle lifting of his left eyebrow, the group responds as if one and suddenly the joyous strains of “Oh come, all ye faithful” are heard ringing through the pews, much to the delight of the gathered throng.
Pierre Massie directs the Stairwell Carollers from within the Tenor section
'Tis a scene repeated time and again each Christmas by one of Ottawa’s best kept secrets: the 24-voice Stairwell Carollers.

Reprising our days of singing in the Ottawa U residence stairwells
Ottawa U. stairwells
They’re a choir quite unlike any other. From their very humble beginnings in the stairwells of the University of Ottawa, this tiny group of singers has grown to become one of Ottawa’s premier a cappella choirs, with three Christmas CDs and one Renaissance madrigal CD professionally-produced this past decade.
The choir is led by their dynamic founder and director, Pierre Massie, a man of many hats. For 17 years, his day job has been music teacher with the Ottawa Carleton School Board, and he is currently Head of Fine Arts at Glebe Collegiate High School. He has also found time to indulge his passion of leading the Stairwell Carollers since their inception in 1977.
Pierre Massie, creator and director of the Stairwell Carollers
Our Director, Pierre Massie

He is renowned for his unusual style of conducting from within the tenor section itself, using everything imaginable within his reach to conduct with: his eyebrows and his eyes of course, not to mention his head, his music book, his nose, his ears and even his teeth.

Pierre is also an award-winning composer, twice having won first prize in the prestigious Toronto Amadeus Choir Christmas Carol and Chanukah Song Writing Competition, most recently this past November.

The Stairwell Carollers are not just about music, however. Right from the get-go they have been a true community choir in the best sense of the word; and their community has been a vast one indeed.
Singing on the radio for CFMO's Christmas Exchange broadcast
CFRA Xmas Exchange broadcast 1985
In addition to the hundreds of concerts they have performed in the Ottawa-Gatineau area itself, the choir ventures far afield 

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each year, singing in small towns across the Valley. Places like Cumberland and Carp, Pakenham and Almonte, Smiths Falls and Carleton Place, Merrickville and Alexandria. Like the proverbial mailman, neither sleet, nor snow, nor freezing rain can prevent this group of dedicated singers from reaching their wintry destinations and audiences.
Stairwell Carolling on Sparks Street
Sparks Street December 1999
Many of these same performances have been benefit concerts for churches or other local charities. This has been an important theme of the choir’s from the outset too, and has included singing for convalescing patients in area hospitals and cheering up the less fortunate at soup kitchens.

The choir itself is a registered charity, and from the proceeds of their CD sales over the years, they have given back to the community via donations of more than $25,000 to various charities in Ottawa and Gatineau. Their goal this season, their 30th, is to reach $30,000!

Last but not least, for the past four years, the Stairwell Carollers have awarded an annual scholarship to a graduating Ottawa-Gatineau high school student who is seeking to pursue post-secondary music studies in one of Canada’s universities.

The choir is inviting the public to join with them in celebrating their 30 years of music making and actively giving back to the community. Their gala 30th anniversary concert will be held at 7:30pm on Saturday December 15 in St. Charles Church, 135 Barrette, at the corner of St-Charles and Beechwood in Vanier. Tickets are $15 and are available from choir members or at the door.

Proceeds will go towards helping the choir reach its goal of “$30,000 in 30.”

CODA-- update...
The 30th anniversary celebrations were a resounding success -- with over 75 ex- Stairwellers in attendance. The choir awarded Pierre with a lovely iron nameplate which graces his pool gate.

The Stairwell Carollers continue to raise funds and give charitable gifts -- over $40,000 to date and award scholarships to promising music students. 
David remains a cherished member of the choir -- his sweet Tenor voice gracing every one of the choir's CDs.

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