Music has always been important at Metropolitan. In 1930, the church installed the largest pipe organ in Canada (now with 8300 pipes). Metropolitan’s 32-voice choir is renowned across the country, and the Metropolitan Silver Band plays regularly at our services. The 54-bell carillon was the first tuned carillon in North America. Metropolitan United’s music program is led by Dr. Patricia Wright, the first ordained Minister of Music in Canada. More than one hundred people, from age 4 to 85, take part in musical programs at Metropolitan.
Each year, Metropolitan United organises its own concert season—choral, piano and organ concerts in the fall, oratorios at Christmas and Easter, the annual Carol Service at Christmas, free Noon at Met concerts on Thursdays, the famous Phantoms of the Organ show at Halloween, and special musical presentations through the year. The next important concert will be November 29: An Evening With Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Canteloube and others. Performers include the world-famous pianist Arthur Ozolins as well as Matthew Coons, and Lesley Bouza, soprano, accompanied by pianist James Bourne.
Metropolitan’s Casavant Organ
Metropolitan’s organ is the largest pipe organ in Canada and one of the largest church organs in the world. It has 8300 pipes ranging from a 32-foot (9.75m) low C to a half-inch (1 cm) high C. The organ console has five manuals (keyboards) for a total of 305 keys with 32 pedals for the low notes and 120 stops used to vary the tonal colour. Built by Casavant Frères of Quebec in 1930, the Metropolitan organ has always had a tonal palette which places it among the finest recital instruments. A gallery division of seven stops installed in 1998 makes it possible to play antiphonal music of contrasting sounds from the front and back of the church. An upgrade in 2005 to an electronic system now makes it possible to move the console for better visibility. The Metropolitan organ is in constant use for church services, Noon at Met Concerts, teaching, and student recitals.
Choral Music at Metropolitan
The Metropolitan Choir is an auditioned choir of 32 members who sing during Sunday worship and at special events. Thursday evening rehearsals prepare works for Sunday services and concert performances. The choir’s repertoire is very wide, ranging from 17th century composers such as Tallis and Schuetz, through Bach and Mendelssohn to 20th century composers such as Britten and Duruflé. The choir often features Canadian works, some of them written expressly for the group.
Five recordings by the Metropolitan Choir are available, including two Christmas discs: Gaudate and Noel! The Metropolitan Festival Choir is an augmented choir assembled for our annual Good Friday concert—a Toronto tradition of more than 30 years. The Festival Choir rehearses on Sunday afternoons for six weeks prior to Good Friday. Past repertoire has included Bach’s St. John Passion and B Minor Mass, various cantatas, and Fauré’s Requiem.
Music for Young People – and not-so-young people
Guided by our Minister of Music, Dr. Patricia Wright, more than 100 amateur musicians are involved in programs at Metropolitan United:
Sparklers—for children ages 4 to 6. On Sunday mornings, the children learn the basics of rhythm and unison singing.
Choristers—for children ages 7 to 11. These older children learn vocal technique, sight singing and musical concepts.
Great Heart—for teenagers. This group meets after the Sunday service. The group performs music from many traditions: classical, gospel, jazz and contemporary.
The Handbell Choir – Metropolitan United has a ten-member handbell choir that plays a wide repertoire of music, from traditional church music to arrangements of modern hymns and folk songs. The Handbell Choir plays a three-octave set of Schulmerich handbells donated in the memory of Peter Campbell and Roy Rigg. The group rehearses Thursday nights and plays for the congregation once each month.
The 54 bells of Metropolitan’s carillon are located high in the tower facing Queen Street. The instrument is played before each Sunday service and at many special events through the year. Installed in 1922, Metropolitan’s carillon was the first tuned carillon anywhere in North America. The bells in a carillon are sounded by clappers hung from the inside while the bells themselves remain motionless in their frame. This makes it possible to play music very quickly and to play many bells at the same time for harmony. The largest bell, or bourdon, in Metropolitan’s carillon weighs 8,456 pounds (3,836 kg). It is 72 inches (183 cm) in diameter, and is almost the same in height. The entire group of 54 bells weighs many tonnes, but Metropolitan’s bell tower, dating to 1872, was constructed with 7 foot thick walls to accommodate the weight.
Click here for our Bells of Metropolitan brochure.
The Metropolitan Silver Band
The Metropolitan Silver Band is an all brass and percussion ensemble in the English tradition that has called Metropolitan United Church home since 1934. Under the leadership of Music Director Fran Harvey, the band’s concert and service schedule includes twenty performances a year at church and concert venues in Toronto and the GTA. The band has also gone on five performance tours in Ontario, the Maritimes and the USA. The band performs during Metropolitan’s worship services six times a year and participates in the annual Carols United Concert in December.
The Silver Band has a long history of superb musicianship as demonstrated by their contest history and many excellent recordings. Their repertoire includes classics, marches, religious music, popular selections, and contemporary works written and arranged for brass band. The membership is made up of men and women from all faiths, many who travel long distances each week to attend rehearsal. For more information about the Metropolitan Silver Band, see their website at www.metband.ca .