Monday, July 30, 2007

Ring My Bell

People ask me all the time how I like living in Toronto. I always say I love it but am never able to put into words exactly why. I've mentioned different aspects of the city before but recently something happened to me that really encaptulated why I am in love with T-dot.

It was a drop-dead gorgeous Friday. The sun was in the sky, a cool breeze was blowing and the weekend was ahead of me. Instead of coming home to an empty apartment to fritter away the afternoon on the computer or in a book, I decided to walk back through the parks and stop off to admire the stained glass in the three big churches that have given Church Street its name.

My first stop was St. James Cathedral. This Anglican church has amazing stained glass and is the oldest congregation in the city. It has turned over part of their land to the city of Toronto for a beautiful 19th century garden and park.

Just up the street I found the Metropolitan United Church. I was happy that they hadn't closed yet and I could see inside of it as well. While I was looking around I was approached by an older gentleman who shyly introduced himself to me as the carillonneur of the church. Not sure what that meant, I did what I usually do - smiled, nodded and said, "oh, yes?" (Usually this opening gives people further opportunity to talk about themselves and meanwhile I can get the gist of what it is that they exactly do.) Following the script, he went on to say that he was going up the tower and would I care for a tour and demonstration? I hesitated for perhaps two seconds, not wanting to seem overeager you see, and then agreed. Two other men joined me up the very narrow twisting staircase. I was thankful that I did not suffer from vertigo.

At the top of the first flight of stairs it began to get warm. We got to see the practice keyboard which wasn't hooked up to the bells upstairs. Continuing up the second flight of stairs (thankful that I am a slim person) the heat increased to monumental proportions. We reached another landing finally (about 100 steps) and then went up a small set of stairs into a wonderfully airconditioned room. This room held the actual keyboard for playing the 54 carillon bells. I can only describe it as a lot of sticks that one has to vigorously hit with a fist or stomp with a foot to play. The energy it took for the carillonneur to play a short piece was amazing. He graciously let each of us try it out- imagine the whole city hearing your mistakes!

He took us further up a small ladder to see the actual bells themselves. They were amazing. The largest weighed 8 tons and was inscribed "May the spirit fo the Lord reach the heart of every one where the sound of these bells is heard." This set is one of the largest in Canada.

He then took us down the stairs again and out through the sanctuary (the church had since been closed to visitors). The organist (who looked to be 13 years old) was playing this piece on a magnificent 7,840 pipe Casavant, the largest pipe organ in Canada (pics). I got to see all the woodwork and stained glass upclose. It was breathtaking.

I thanked our guide profusely and continued my walk back, stopping briefly to tour St. Michael's Cathedral (home to Canada's largest English Catholic diocese) and Allen Gardens (The park is home to three varieties of squirrel, the gray, the black, and, unique to this park, the red tailed black squirrel.) I returned home tired but thankful that I took the road less traveled!

And that is (part of) why I love Toronto!


connie said...

I would have loved that special tour of the bell tower. No matter where we travel, I love to visit old or unique churches. We even toured two monasteries and their associated cathedrals in Switzerland. I've also visited a few of the oldest churches on the Big Island and on Maui. And one of my all-time favorite cathedrals is the beautiful basilica in Covington, Kentucky, the city where I was born.

If I ever make it back to Toronto, you have to take me on your afternoon church tour, okay?

Jolie said...

Great story! I love when things fall into place.