Musical Offerings

Members of the Stairwell Carollers a capella choir. From left: David Rain, Lyndsay Bolden, Pierre Massie, and the horizontal Terry Brynaert. Photos: Holly Massie

Stairwell Carollers concert December 14 to feature composer quartet

By Katie Stewart

As the Stairwell Carollers prepare for this year’s Christmas concerts, I am so happy and proud to be part of this amazing choir that I dreamed of joining from the moment I first heard it sing.

That was in May 2017 when I was a member of the Glebe Collegiate choir and we performed with the Stairwell Carollers. I had never heard a choir quite like it before, and I fell in love with the music they sang. After I graduated from high school in 2018, I had the courage to sign up for an audition, and I am so glad I was accepted.

This award-winning choir is directed by Pierre Massie, a former music teacher at Glebe who taught me when I was there. He has put together an incredible Christmas program for our concerts this year. Having sung many a capella pieces, with Glebe choirs and with the Stairwell Carollers, I promise that this season’s pieces are some of the best.

Included are unique arrangements and compositions by four choir members, our very own composer quartet. The program includes two brand-new carols: “Christmas is…” by bass Terry Brynaert and “Mary’s Lullaby” by alto Lyndsay Bolden. The choir is also singing an arrangement of “Es ist ein Ros enstsprungen” by tenor David Rain, as well as “The Stairwell Carol” and many other carols by tenor and director Massie.

Being part of the Stairwell Carollers has been a real treat and an amazing experience for me. We really hope to see you at our concert “An a capella Christmas” at Southminster United Church, 15 Aylmer Avenue at Bank Street, Saturday December 14, 7:30 p.m.

Come celebrate and enjoy carols with us and hear a capella singing at its finest! The Carollers will also be presenting a $2,000 donation to the Cornerstone Housing for Women.

If you’re looking for that perfect Christmas gift, the choir’s CDs will be on sale. Proceeds from tickets, CDs and product sales are used to help local organisations. Since 1997, the choir has donated more than $140,000 to local charities and scholarships.

Tickets are $20 at the door or $15 in advance at Compact Music, 206 and 785 1/2 Bank Street, or online at

If you can’t make it to Southminster, you can also hear the Stairwell Carollers on Wednesday, December 18 at St Columba Church, 24 Sandridge Road, 7:30 p.m.

Katie Stewart is a former Glebe Collegiate student who sings soprano in the Stairwell Carollers.

Harmony Concerts presents

Tom Jackson’s The Huron Carole

By Eleanor Fogolin

Harmony Concerts is welcoming the holiday season on December 17 with a truly special cultural and musical event: Tom Jackson’s Huron Carole.

Tom Jackson is an iconic figure in Canadian music and media. As an actor, singer, producer, activist and Officer of the Order of Canada, Jackson has been bringing his powerful presence into Canadian homes for 40 years, through his television roles (North of 60, Shining Time Station), film roles (The Diviners, Grizzly Falls), theatre and radio productions.

Born to an English father and Cree mother, Jackson’s career revolves around art, music and compassion. His touring shows and albums – including Swinging for Supper and Ballads Not Bullets, an album in support of the Canadian Red Cross – have reached those affected by floods, typhoons, fires, drought, terrorism, youth suicide, homelessness, environmental disaster and economic disadvantage. In recent years he has become increasingly well known for his annual Huron Carole Benefit Concert series, the proceeds of which support food banks and charitable organizations across Canada, including Tewegan Housing for Aboriginal Youth in Ottawa.

Jackson’s compassion for those in crisis stems largely from the time he was suffering on the streets of Winnipeg as a teenager. He brings the wisdom gleaned from his life experiences to his audience. Huron Carole is an evening of contemporary and festive music, featuring original songs and stories created by Jackson and his ensemble. Harmony Concerts knew that a show embodying Jackson’s belief that we can create change with a song, poem or musical tour is the ideal way to warm the hearts and spirits of Ottawa this holiday season.

Tom Jackson will be performing Huron Carole at Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, 355 Cooper Street, on December 17 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available through the Harmony Concerts website (Reserved tickets are sold out.)

Eleanor Fogolin is a freelance writer in Ottawa, the traditional territory of the Algonquin. She has spent more than five years creating content for the education sector, digital innovation centres and not-for-profit organizations.”

The Fall Choral Workshop, under the mentorship of Roland Graham, is preparing its second annual Family Christmas Concert, to be held Sunday, December 8 at Southminster United Church. Photo: Courtesy of R. Graham

Fall Choral Workshop sings Bach

By Roland Graham

As if there isn’t enough to choose from to scratch your holiday musical itch, my Fall Choral Workshop is putting the final touches on its second annual 2019 Family Christmas Concert, to be held Sunday, December 8 at 2:30 p.m. at Southminster United Church.

An educational program for choral singers in the community seeking to advance their musicianship, these popular choral workshops develop music cognitive abilities and singing technique over a 12-week workshop, leading to a concert that showcases the group’s accomplishments in a live public performance of the studied works.

The Fall 2019 workshop has been learning J. S. Bach’s Advent cantata, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Sleepers Wake), BWV 140, which it will perform with a professional orchestra of strings, winds, brass and keyboards for our second annual choral workshop Christmas concert. The music is challenging, but participants have been working very hard to master it, developing new skills and a greater appreciation of music along the way.

Appearing alongside the choir, furnishing Bach’s splendid solos and duets (“Wann kommst du?” and “Mein Freund ist mein!”) will be soprano Ania Hejnar and baritone Geoffroy Salva, acclaimed professional singers from the Canadian opera and oratorio scene making their debuts at Southminster.

Another remarkable soloist, 16-year-old pianist Jeremy Hare-Chang, will open the concert by playing Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in D major, BWV 1054. Originally a violin concerto (the well-known E major, BWV 1042), Bach adapted the work, along with a handful of others, to be played on the harpsichord. Jeremy, who is in Grade 10 at Glebe Collegiate, will play the concerto on Southminster’s 9’ Heintzman grand piano supported by the strings as per Bach’s original score.

Supplementing the cantata will be a selection of shorter choral works including Darke’s “In the Bleak Midwinter”, Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria”, Philip Stopford’s “Lully, Lulla, Lullay” and Leontovych’s “Carol of the Bells”. There will also be familiar hymns and carols for the audience to sing.

Described by one participant as “stirring, contemplative, and nostalgic,” the program perfectly sets the mood for Advent and Christmas and “to be singing it is a gift.” So will it be to hear.

Tickets for the 90-minute event are $25 for general admission, $5 for children 16 and under, $15 for students (up to age 24) and $45 for families of up to two adults and four children They can be purchased in advance through (search “FCW 2019 Christmas Concert” in Ottawa) and at the door.

Five dollars from every ticket sold and general proceeds from the concert will be donated to the CHEO Foundation which supports the work of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

A follow-up choral workshop will begin on January 22, focusing on Mozart’s Requiem, which participants will perform in concert on April 26, 2020, under the baton of Kevin Mallon, conductor of Ottawa’s 13 Strings Orchestra. Write to for details.

Roland Graham is a conductor, teacher, producer and pianist, and is musical director at Southminster United Church.

J. S. Bach’s Wachet auf Cantata
& Keyboard Concerto in D

Featuring participants of Roland Graham’s Fall Choral Workshop, Jeremy Hare-Chang (piano), Ania Hejnar (soprano), Geoffroy Salva (baritone), orchestra
Sunday, December 8 at 2:30 p.m.
Southminster United Church
(search “FCW 2019 Christmas Concert”)

Robin Hood,
a Christmas pantomime – rollicking fun for the family!

By Sarah Cassidy

Cheer the heroes and boo the villains! My husband Matt Cassidy and I are producers of Ottawa Musicals, and we are thrilled to announce that our sixth annual family musical, Robin Hood, is coming to Ottawa this holiday season. Robin Hood and his band of merry friends will take on the evil Prince John and his sheriff in this zany, madcap pantomime December 28 to January 5 at the Gladstone Theatre, 910 Gladstone Ave.

This is a show the whole family will enjoy. Come see another magical offering from the producers of Freezing, The Blizzard of Oz, Alice in Winterland and Cinderella and the Ice Slipper.

Matt and I bring a high level of talent, quality and professionalism to this theatre venture. Having spent more than 20 years as professional equity performers in Toronto, we made the decision six years ago to move our young family to Ottawa to produce an annual family musical in the style of a pantomime. We have both performed in Ross Petty Productions Family Musicals and in The Stirling Festival Panto, and we knew this style of family entertainment would be well received in my hometown of Ottawa.

A pantomime is a type of musical comedy stage production designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is still performed in the United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries, especially during the Christmas season. A modern pantomime includes songs, gags, slapstick comedy, double entendres and dancing. It employs gender-crossing actors and combines topical humour with a story more or less based on a well-known fairy tale or fable. It is a participatory form of theatre – the audience is encouraged to boo the villain and cheer for the hero.

Robin Hood features a cast of veteran actors, most of whom grew up in the Ottawa area, including Mark Allan (Stage West, Ross Petty Productions, Angelwalk Theatre), Andy Allen-McCarthy (Orpheus Music Theatre), Constant Bernard (GCTC, Starvox, Disney Cruise Lines), Declan Cassidy (Ottawa Musicals, Orpheus Music Theatre), Chad Connell (Good Sam for Netflix, The Good Witch, Reign, Mortal Instruments, Suits, Murdoch Mysteries, Warehouse 13), Émilie O’Brien (Randolph Academy), Cara Pantalone (STC, Smile Theatre), Shelley Simester (Charlottetown Festival, The Stratford Festival, Citadel Theatre, Odyssey Theatre) and four local ensemble members.

Robin Hood is written by Mark Allan, directed by Matt Cassidy (The Stratford Festival, Mirvish Productions, Jersey Boys Canadian Company), musical direction by Wendy Berkelaar (GCTC, Broadway Across Canada, Zucchini Productions), choreographed by Jessica Vandenberg (Citadel Theatre, Theatre Calgary, Disney Imagineering), original music by Jonathan Evans (Gemini award winner, Emmy nominated, Esme and Roy for Sesame Street), costume design by Lu-Anne Connell (Capital Critics Circle award winner). Musicals.

Tickets: adults $49, children 12 and under $41, preview $31. For tickets and information, contact The Gladstone Theatre at 613-233-4523 or visit

This holiday spectacle is made possible by the generous support of the Preston Street BIA, EQ Homes and Funhaven.

Sarah Cassidy is a co-producer of Robin Hood.

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