THE SCOOP | Chimes return to United Metropolitan Church of Toronto

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Improvements to the Carillon at the Metropolitan United Church, Toronto (Photos courtesy of the Met)

The carillon bells of Toronto’s Metropolitan United Church have returned from more than three years of repairs south of the border, just in time to celebrate the instrument’s 100th anniversary. The centennial celebration and rededication will take place on Sunday, October 16, 2022.

The return of the massive musical architecture has been delayed due to the pandemic and resulting restrictions at the border.

Chime

  • 1922: installed with 23 bells cast by Gillet & Johnson, Croydon, England;
  • 1960: 12 mid-range bells cast by Petit & Fritsen, Netherlands added;
  • 1971: 19 treble bells cast by Paccard et Fils, France added;
  • Heaviest weight: 8,456 lbs and remains one of the heaviest in Canada.

The chime is played via a keyboard. It is a versatile instrument that has been used to perform both traditional and modern repertoire.

The tower and bells survived the terrible Toronto fire of 1928 which devastated much of downtown. However, exposed to the weather of Toronto for almost a century, the bells had suffered wear and were in need of repair. The Met has embarked on a huge undertaking that began in September 2019 to lower the bells, so they could be transported to Meeks, Watson & Company of Ohio, a carillon specialist. Company officials supervised the lowering of the bells, which range from 22 to 150 pounds each, via a system of hoists and then brought them back to their workshop in Georgetown.

Improvements include:

  • New cast iron clappers and headgear;
  • New transmission actions linking the ringer to the bell clappers above;
  • Retuning the 1960 Dutch bells;
  • Repositioning of the 26 upper bells;
  • New gaming keyboard (North American standard) and adjustable bench.

Victory Rhapsody was composed for the end of the Second World War by Percival Price (the first Metropolitan Carillonneur of 1922-1926). Roy Lee, the current Met Carillonneur, recorded the piece in 2020 on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

The Met’s carillon was the first in North America to be harmonically tuned. Today, it serves as both a teaching instrument and a stage instrument for recitalists. The restoration of the carillon cost approximately $400,000.

An invitation

The public is invited to discover the incredible architecture of the carillon, located at the top of a spiral staircase of 100 steps.

The public can visit the tower and the bells of the Metropolitan on Saturday October 15 at a carillon conference, or at rededication Sunday October 16 at 12:15 p.m. Visitors will be required to wear closed shoes and sign a security waiver.

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