General Questions about the Concert

I’ve heard of “Come Sing Messiah!” – what is this exactly?

This annual event is a chance for all choristers enjoy singing G.F. Handel’s great work, “Messiah”. You don’t need to sing in a choir, you don’t need to come to rehearsals, you don’t need any experience, and you don’t even need to be a talented singer! This activity is open to everyone who wants to give it a try. Basically, this is a “sing-along” Messiah – so come and join the choir!

A 1 ½ hour rehearsal is immediately followed by a formal performance. If you feel you need more rehearsal time, optional rehearsals take place on the three Saturday mornings previous to the event.

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Will you be performing the entire work?

No, unfortunately. Given that our evening has to include both a rehearsal and a performance, singing the entire work would take far too long. We select some 13 or 14 choruses, along with about a dozen arias. And yes, don’t worry, the Hallelujah is always included!

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How does the evening unfold?

The orchestra and soloists rehearse with the organist and the conductor in the afternoon, while volunteers are hard at work making sure everything is ready for the evening’s performance.

The doors open at 5:30; choristers get in and take their seat in the sanctuary at any time between 5:30 and 6:00. We ask that they remain quiet, as the orchestra rehearsal is still in progress. Choristers are seated by section: sopranos, altos, tenors and basses each have their own areas, clearly marked.

At 6:00, the evening starts with a warm-up, followed by a rehearsal of all the choruses. Then, at 7:30, everyone gets a break. Choristers are invited to go in one of the church halls to eat the sandwiches they’ve brought; a limited quantity of pizza is also available for sale. Other choristers prefer to step out to Bank Street, only a block away, to grab a bite. The washrooms are in high demand! It’s also an opportunity to take advantage of our fabulous used music sale.

The audience usually arrives between 7:15 and 8:00. They sit upstairs, in the balcony.

The concert starts at 8:00. This is a formal concert; we all hope for the best, for no matter what happens, the conductor just keeps going! (Rest assured that it really goes very well every year). The concert is usually over around 9:40 or 9:45. An informal reception follows in the church hall, to give everybody a chance to catch up, congratulate the soloists, and get some dessert.

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How much do the tickets cost?

The price for concert tickets may vary from year to year. The current price can be found at the Activities page.
A singer’s ticket entitles the bearer to sit on the ground floor of the sanctuary.
An audience ticket entitles the bearer to sit in the balcony of the sanctuary.

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Is there a discount for children or seniors?

No, the price is the same for all participants.

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Will there be tickets at the door, or should I purchase my ticket ahead of time?

Tickets are available for sale in various stores at least 3 weeks before the event. For the exact date please consult the Activities page. We strongly recommend that you purchase your ticket ahead of time, especially if you wish to have an audience (balcony) ticket. Some singer’s tickets (ground floor only) are usually available at the door.

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May I reserve a seat?

Seats cannot be reserved. A very few seats will be marked ” reserved”; these are for donors, or possibly for some volunteers who will be busy until the very last minute.

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At what time should I arrive?

If you wish to sing, you will likely want to arrive before 6 pm, in time for the vocal warm-up. The doors open at 5:30 and the best seats get taken very quickly! Choir members often line up as early as 5:00 pm. If you want a front seat, we recommend that you arrive no later than 5:30pm.

If you wish to listen to the performance, you can arrive at any time between 5:30 and 8:00; however, in the gallery as well, the best seats get taken fairly quickly! If you want a seat in a fairly central location, and in the front rows, we recommend that you arrive no later than 7:15.

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Someone will come to pick me up after the event. At what time does it end?

The concert is usually over around 9:45 pm. You may wish to stay around to enjoy the post-concert reception, which is usually over around 10:30 pm.

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Is there an intermission during the performance?

There is a half-hour break from 7:30 to 8:00 pm, between the end of the rehearsal and the beginning of the concert. After that, the performance runs through to the end – at around 9:45pm – without an intermission.

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What happens at the post-concert reception?

After the performance all participants along with the members of the audience are invited to a reception to enjoy some refreshments and mingle with and meet the principals and soloists. The reception takes place in one of the Church’s halls.

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This is a formal concert, how should I dress?

Dress is casual for the choir and the audience. Do NOT wear your choir’s formal concert outfit, or your church choir’s gown. The conductor, organist, soloists and orchestra do dress up formally, but they are the only ones to do so!

As the church is packed, it often gets quite warm, regardless of the weather outside, so we recommend that you don’t dress too warmly (or perhaps wear layers you can remove).

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May I take pictures?

Yes, feel free to take photographs. A couple of CAMMAC members are expert photographers, and usually take pictures throughout the evening. Some pictures will be available on our web site.

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May I tape the concert, or a few minutes from it?

No, recording is forbidden. The musicians in the orchestra belong to the musicians’ union, and are paid the lower rate that applies to performances that will not be recorded.

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Can we still get copies of the 2012 documentary DVD?

Yes, of course! The DVD which was filmed during our 2012 event is still available. It can be bought at the locations listed on our DVD page throughout the year, and will also be available at all three rehearsals in November, and on the night of the concert.

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I would love for my child to have a chance to hear Handel’s Messiah. Are children allowed?

Yes, children are allowed. However, as this is a fairly long evening, it is not recommended for young children who usually don’t enjoy it much and tend to disrupt other concert-goers – the parents first of all.

There are no specially priced tickets for children. Children young enough to sit in a parent’s lap for the entire evening may come in free, but any child who occupies a seat will need his or her own ticket. As this event is usually sold-out, please do not be surprised if we ask children occupying a seat to produce their ticket to show they are entitled to it.

For security reasons and given that the church is full to capacity, we ask you not to park strollers or baby-carriages in the aisles next to the pews.

A better way to expose your child to this wonderful music would be to bring her to one of the Saturday morning rehearsals. These are free for children, and you will get a very good seat even if you arrive late. Also, at a rehearsal children may enjoy the mid-morning juice and cookies!

Another very good option is to bring your child only to the rehearsal, from 6:00 to 7:30pm. As this is a little less formal than the actual concert, other concert-goers won’t mind as much if your child gets up occasionally or if you talk to the child from time to time to explain to her what is going on. The orchestra does rehearse with the choir before 7:30, so children who attend the rehearsal do get to see the orchestra.

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Questions about the Performers

Who is the “core choir” for this performance?

Unlike some “sing-along” performances in some other cities, there is no “core” choir here. Every year, some 750 choristers show up to form the choir… and they usually do a very good job indeed! So we don’t feel that a “core” choir is needed.

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Who is the conductor?

The conductor for this event is the well-known Montréal conductor Louis Lavigueur.

Louis Lavigueur is artistic director and conductor of the Montreal Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Ensemble Sinfonia of Montreal, the Ensemble vocal Polymnie de Longueuil and the Choeur Polyphonique de Montréal. He is associate conductor of the orchestra and director of choral activities at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal. Teacher, consultant, adjudicator and lecturer, he has taught at Université Laval, Université de Montréal and McGill University, and has conducted choirs and orchestras in Canada, Switzerland, France and the Czech Republic.

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Who is the organist?

The organist for this event is the well-known Ottawa organist and conductor Alan Thomas.

Alan Thomas was born in Wales and came to Ottawa as Director of Music at Ashbury College in 1974. In 1984 he decided to branch out on his own as a freelance musician and teacher, but he remained at Ashbury until 1996 as College Organist. He has been involved in many musical activities in Ottawa and district, including guest conductorship of the Parkdale Orchestra and concerts with community television. He has been Organist and Choir Director at Westminster Presbyterian Church since 1977. For many years he has also participated as organist for the International Festival of Wales that is held in a different city in the USA every September.

Alan also conducts the three optional Saturday morning rehearsals before the event – not to be missed!

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Who are the soloists?

The soloists are usually young (or youngish!) professional singers, or talented voice students. Soloists are chosen with great care, and we are usually very impressed with their performance!

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May I meet the soloists?

Certainly! Come to the post-concert reception, in the church hall (behind the sanctuary) if you want to tell the soloists how much you’ve enjoyed listening to them.

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Who is the orchestra?

The orchestra is a “pick-up” orchestra, made up mostly of Ottawa-area professionals, with a few very strong amateurs. The first violin is Kevin James, a well-known local violinist and violist. Most members of the orchestra are hired year after year for this event, which means the orchestra is quite experienced and knows what to expect from the conductor.

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Who are the choristers?

You! The choristers are music lovers from all over the Ottawa-Gatineau area – and beyond! Most are amateurs, and some are professional musicians. Some have sung Messiah every year for several decades, and barely need to look at their scores; others have only sung some movements, perhaps only the famous “Hallelujah” – and others are opening their brand-new score for the very first time!

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Questions about Participating

I’ve sung Messiah at the NAC in the past – is this going to be too easy for me?

No, don’t worry! If you enjoy singing Messiah, just come and sing with us! If you feel that you know the work very well, feel free to skip the 6 pm rehearsal (but good luck getting a seat!)

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I’ve never sung Messiah – isn’t this going to be far too difficult for me?

We do encourage newcomers to give it a try! If you’ve never sung this work before, we strongly encourage you to attend our three preparatory rehearsals, on the three Saturday mornings previous to the event. These rehearsals are great fun. We rehearse all the choruses which will be performed on the evening of the concert so you get a chance to find your way about. These rehearsals also give you a very good sense of how the movements go, so it’s a lot easier for you to look at the music on your own, at home, should you wish to do so.

On the night of the performance, don’t be shy: sit near the front so that you can easily hear the rest of the section behind you. It also helps to sit next to an experienced chorister (look for someone with a well-worn score.) Don’t worry if you can’t sing all the notes! Sing whatever you can, and enjoy the great feeling of being part of the fantastic sound of 750 people singing together!

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I would like to sing, but I don’t have a score.

We recommend that you purchase your score ahead of time. Scores are available at the following locations:

Book Bazaar, 417 Bank at Frank
The Leading Note, 370 Elgin near Gladstone
Granata Music, 1558 Merivale near Meadowlands

Scores will also be on sale at the Saturday morning rehearsals previous to the event. In addition, some scores will be available the night of the event, approximately from 5:30 to 6:30 pm.

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Which edition of the score am I supposed to have?

Any edition will do, as long as the text is in English! Just bring whichever one you have. Don’t purchase another copy if you have one already.

If you don’t have a score, and wish to purchase one, a very popular edition is the « New » Novello choral edition, edited by Watkins Shaw. At 28 cm tall, this is a nice, large, easy-to-read edition. (The cover is orange and white). And at under $20 it is quite inexpensive!

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Should I bring a music stand?

A music stand is not recommended. As the choir sits in the pews, there is really no room at all for music stands. Keep in mind, however, that the chorus movements alternate with solo movements, during which choristers get a chance to sit and rest their arms for a little while.

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Should I bring a black folder to put my music in?

No, there’s no need to bring a folder – unless you plan to bring a clip-on book-light, in which case a rigid folder is very useful to hold the light. Most people don’t bother, since we’re not facing an audience.

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I would like to sing a solo.

Please contact a member of the organizing committee several months ahead of time if you would like to sing a solo in NEXT year’s performance. Contact information will be found elsewhere on the CAMMAC Ottawa-Gatineau web site.

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Questions about the Rehearsals

When and where do the rehearsals take place?

The rehearsals take place on the THREE Saturday mornings previous to the event, at Parkdale United Church, 429 Parkdale, corner of Gladstone (between Wellington and the Queensway) (directions are here). They start at 10:00 and last just over two hours.

There is a decent-size parking lot north of the church, and a tiny one on the south side, on Gladstone.
OC Transpo bus # 14 runs on Gladstone and comes to Parkdale. Bus # 2 runs on Wellington, which is less than a block away.

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How much do the tickets cost?

The current ticket price can be found at the Activities page.

In contrast to other years, there is no requirement for participants to register on-line for CSM rehearsals. Rather, rehearsal tickets will be sold at the door, with people indicating the date or dates they wish to attend (1, 2, or 3 rehearsals) and purchasing the required tickets at the price in question.

Non-members, i.e., people who are not on CAMMAC’s current list of members, will have the choice of:

  • updating their membership, which would allow them to save by paying the member price, or
  • joining CAMMAC: in this case too they will pay the member price, or
  • not joining CAMMAC but optionally provide us with their email address to allow us to send them CAMMAC notifications by email.

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Which language will be used in the rehearsal?

Most of the rehearsal is conducted in English, but some French will be used as well. All announcements are made in both languages.

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Questions about the Venue

Where does this event take place?

The evening concert (like the 6 pm rehearsal) takes place at Dominion-Chalmers United Church, at 355 Cooper, corner of O’Connor, in downtown Ottawa. (directions are here)

Participants who already have a ticket are asked to come in through the main doors, on O’Connor. Participants who do NOT have a ticket, or who will be picking up their ticket (e.g. complimentary tickets, reserved tickets, or tickets left for them by friends) are asked to come to the side door at 355 Cooper.

Volunteers are asked to come in the kitchen door, on Lisgar Street.

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Is the venue wheelchair-accessible?

Yes. The ground floor, where the choir sits, is wheel-chair accessible. Please come in through the door opening on the church parking lot, on Lisgar Street.

The balcony is also accessible via the new elevator at the church parking lot entrance, i.e., at Lisgar. However, to get to the seated area of the balcony there are steps at both entrance doors at either end of the corridor there, which could be a problem for wheelchairs unless people can get out and walk down a couple of steps.

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Are there washrooms?

Yes, there are washrooms at the church; however, this concert is usually sold-out, and as there are over 1200 people present in the church, expect some line-ups… please be patient!

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Is there parking available?

The church parking lot is usually full by 5 pm. However, there is parking on nearby streets. There is also a public parking lot on Lisgar, right next to the church, and there are other public parking lots in the area.

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Which bus should I take?

OC Transpo buses # 1 and 7 run on Bank Street, which is less than a block away. Buses #5, 6 and 14 run on Elgin Street, also within walking distance (only 2 long blocks away). Or, you may also walk from the Transitway on Albert and Slater – only 5 or 6 short blocks away.

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Can I purchase food at the Church?

During the break, from 7:30 to 8:00 pm, you can purchase some pizza and cold pops (or coffee and tea) in the church hall, or you may step out to Bank Street, less than a block away, to purchase a snack. You may also bring your supper and eat it in one of the church halls. If you do, bring a supper which does not need to be reheated (there will be no access to microwave ovens). We ask that you do not eat in the sanctuary, which is a sacred (and carpeted!) space. Bottled water, however, is allowed.

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What shall I do with my coat and boots?

Coat-racks are available in the front vestibule (opening on O’Connor street), as well as in the church hall (Woodside Hall) behind the sanctuary. These areas are not secure; we ask that you do not leave items of value (such as car keys or money) in your coats. Neither CAMMAC nor Dominion-Chalmers will be held responsible for lost or stolen articles.

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Is there a secure space for singers to leave their purses and other belongings during the performance?

No, there isn’t. We strongly recommend that you keep your purse and any other valuables with you during the entire evening.

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Questions about the Organizers

Who is organizing this event?

Come Sing Messiah! is organized by CAMMAC (Canadian Amateur Musicians – Musiciens amateurs du Canada). For more information on CAMMAC, on the other activities we organize (both in Ottawa-Gatineau, and in other regions of Canada), and on its music centre, please visit other areas of our web site.

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Why is CAMMAC organizing this event?

CAMMAC’s mission is to encourage everybody, regardless of experience or ability, to enjoy making music together. There are few works more universally beloved than Handel’s Messiah which, for a number of people (especially in the Anglo-Saxon tradition), is a part of the Christmas or holidays season. But unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to sing in a choir – and not all choirs choose to perform this work every year! And just putting on a recording simply isn’t the same as singing the work yourself.

So, basically, we organize this evening so that Ottawa area musicians have a chance to sing Handel’s Messiah… just for the fun of it!

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For how long has CAMMAC been organizing this event?

Come Sing Messiah! was first publicly performed in Ottawa in 1977 under the auspices of the Music Department of Carleton University. It was the brainchild of Professor John Churchill, the distinguished English musician and educator. During its first 12 years – until 1988 – the event took place at the Glebe Community Centre. By then it had outgrown space at the Centre and was moved to Dominion-Chalmers United Church with its large seating capacity and excellent organ. It was also around this time that CAMMAC took over the organization from Carleton University.

Louis Lavigueur from Montreal, well known to CAMMAC as a dynamic leader, has been conductor since 1991. A professional chamber orchestra, with Kevin James as concertmaster, has given support since 1992 to the 750 choristers who come every year to sing, mostly for their own pleasure, but also for an enthusiastic audience of approximately 300 in the balcony. Many up-and-coming young artists have had the opportunity and enjoyment of singing solo parts in this wonderful tradition in Ottawa, which has given so much pleasure to very many people.

Long may this tradition continue!

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