Sunday Church, with Clarinet Solo

31 March 2015 — It is Sunday & I am off to church. Not a regular church service, as that “clarinet solo” reference warns you, and not quite an everyday, regular church, either. Even though it is Anglican, consecrated, and active.

signboard, St. Andrew by the Lake, Centre Island, Toronto

It is also on Toronto Island.

Built in 1884, veteran of long use, disuse, near-demolition, last-minute reprieve, relocation & restoration, St. Andrew by the Lake is now peacefully a place of worship for Islanders & visitors — and also home to other events.

I’m headed for the ferry docks, hoping to catch the 12:30 p.m. boat, which will give me a little walking-around time before Canzona‘s 2 p.m. concert of English Music for Clarinet and Piano. The ensemble, now in its 12th season, performs with and without other musical colleagues both in the Island church and in an equally small & interesting city church.

It’s fitting I’m attending an Island performance: I recently learned about the group from a fine woman I first met decades ago, when we both lived on Algonquin Island, one of the cluster that constitutes “Toronto Island.”

But first! I peer up Bay Street from Dundas, anxious for the sight of a bus — timing is all, when you’re ferry-dependent — and I am immediately diverted by a line-up spilling its way up the street.

For cheesecake. (Not that kind. Behave yourself.)

line-up for Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake

Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake, says the sign.

If you don’t live in Asia, you are forgiven for the question-marks now dancing over your head. Uncle Tetsu has 70-plus locations in Asia, primarily Japan, China & Taiwan — and, as of March 18, 2015, exactly one in North America. At Bay & Dundas, in Toronto. Is this a great city, or what?

I have no time to join the line-up, tempted though I am; I have a ferry to catch & here comes my bus.

Do you like maps? I hope so. The one at the ferry dock shows where I am taking you today.

section, Toronto Island map

Follow the dotted line left to Ward’s Island dock. Then, together, we’ll walk away from Ward’s Island, follow the road’s curve to the bridge for Algonquin Island, nip across to say hello to my one-time home, then back to the lagoon path, past Snake Island & its neighbour, up to the lake side for a look at the Centre Island pier in winter, and finally back to the harbour side and the church (#30 on the map).

Except we are not riding in one of the very tubby, very jolly 1930s summer ferries, as shown on the map.

We’ll be in the Ongiara, a small, unglamorous car/passenger ferry commissioned in 1960, that does winter service all by itself.

the Ongiara, ferry to/from Toronto Island

Definitely not beautiful.  But she, more precisely her crew, is much loved & appreciated by winter residents, who know how hard that crew works to keep everything functioning for them despite ice, snow, storms & (I am told) an ageing & vulnerable single propeller.

She is loved to the extent that this fall an Island artist made a long mural of gratitude. It is tacked to one of the inside cabin walls, full of Islander comments & signatures, plus comments from other passing visitors. Here’s one bit of it …

gratitude mural inside the Ongiara

Can’t account for the Catalonia riposte. There must be a reference elsewhere that drew this person’s political fire.

Taking this photo gets me talking to a woman who moved to the Island after my time, but with whom I share many experiences — skating on the lagoon & the lake (“It’s like skating into infinity,” she says), ferry & bicycle vignettes, people we both know, & even Canzona. No, she can’t make this performance, but she attends all that she can.

Off the boat at Ward’s — the only stop in winter — and I pause, as I always do, to look back across Toronto Harbour & enjoy the skyline. A little girl comes rocketing down to water’s edge beside me. “That’s Towonto!” she cries to her dad, who is close behind. She is really crisp with her t’s but not quite on top of the r’s. “It’s so pwitty from heah.”

Toronto, from Ward's Island ferry dock

And it is. Plane streaking low over tower-tops toward the Island airport, swans gliding in the harbour, ice sheets still rimming the shoreline, sky & water blazing blue.

Old memories play tag with current sights as I take the path, cross the bridge to Algonquin Island and look at my former home, glowing with reflected sun amidst the trees.

on Algonquin Island

A look westward down the lagoon from the bridge, then back to the road leading to Centre Island. The ice is now too soft for skating, but it still chokes the lagoon, catches most of the wharves & the houseboats beyond.

westward, from Algonquin Island bridge

I pass another Island map. This one announces that more than 50 kinds of trees have been labelled and invites us to take a self-guiding tour among them. Learn all about it, says the sign — and other tours — at Canadian Tree Tours. I note the URL for future walks.

The next sign is for immediate use — a fingerboard, pointing me down the lagoon-side path toward St. Andrew by the Lake.

path to St. Andrew by the Lake

I pass some Disc Golf “holes” (or whatever they call them, in this airborne version of golf), & think that at least I don’t have to worry about discs whizzing over my head, not at this time of year. Later I see two guys tucking discs back into purpose-designed shoulder bags. I am suitably thankful that they, their discs and my head managed to avoid each other.

A side-trip back up to the main path for a look lake-side, near the Centre Island pier.

Centre Island pier

Not exactly Brighton Pier! But it’s ours, and in summer it is in happy, noisy use all day long. Silent now, still deserted, with great slabs of storm-hurled ice either side.

It’s 1:40, time for the church. I love coming on St. Andrew by the Lake from any angle; today I choose to double back very slightly to the east, so I can again approach from that side. Bicycles, of course.

St. Andrew by the Lake, Toronto Island

Early 20th-c English music (Malcolm Arnold, etc.), not my very favourite genre, but the performers — Canzona founders Jacob Stroller (piano) & Jonathan Krehm (clarinet) — are very good, and the total music/Island/church experience is a delight.

Canzona performance, St. Andrew by the Lake, March 29

It is also wonderfully informal, with clarinetist Krehm providing the best non-musical moment of all. Not during his solo (Sonatina, Richard Rodney Bennet), but between the “Prelude” and “Romance” movements of Five Bagatelles, by Gerald Finzi.

A sudden finger-swipe mid-air, a chortling laugh, and the announcement, as he holds up the minuscule evidence: “It’s spring! Here’s a ladybug!”

Time at intermission to chat, but afterwards I hot-foot it for the docks. Old islanders have hurry-for-the-ferry in their genes.

As it happens, I am 15 minutes early, and have time to kill. I push open the door for the little waiting shed, and have one last, unexpected musical moment.

Ward's Island ferry waiting shed

Why am I surprised? Shouldn’t every waiting shed have a couple of pianos? I try a few chords on the one I’m showing you here. It is quite respectably nearly in tune.

Then the Ongiara churns up to the dock. The only music after that is the throb of engines and, as we approach the city, the crunch of ice cakes, breaking against her hull.


Next Post
Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Thank you interesting – it is sometimes difficult to keep up with all that is on offer – isn’t it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 89,292 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,645 other followers

%d bloggers like this: