A Saint, Some Artists Old & New … & That Nice Mr. Bach

29 May 2016 – Oh come on, you are saying, hands perhaps on hips, how does all that come together?

I will tell you.

It comes together when Toronto decides to hold its 17th annual Doors Open and its first annual Bach Festival on the same weekend — and I decide to participate in both.

With, of course, some walking in between. Even if it is 30C. (Which it is.)

First up, St. Anne’s Anglican Church on Gladstone Avenue in west-end Toronto. It doesn’t look like any other Anglican church in Canada, either inside — my priority — or out.

Byzantine Revival style, St. Anne's Anglican Church, Gladstone Av.

Pure Byzantine Revival style, built in 1907-08 and, upon completion, with a “brownish concrete colour” interior. So it remained until 1923, when J.E.H. MacDonald, one of the founders of the Group of Seven, was commissioned to design and complete its interior decoration.  He recruited other artists, including Group of Seven members F.H. Varley and Franklin Carmichael, and noted sculptors Frances Loring & Florence Wyle (a member of Montreal’s Beaver Hall Group).

Inspired by the style of the building itself, the artists developed their sketches, agreed on the colour palette, and completed their individual assignments in their own studios. By 1924, the works had all been installed and the church re-opened.

the Chancel, St. Anne's Anglican

Today, St. Anne’s is both a thriving parish church and, because of its artistic treasures, a national and provincial Heritage Site. Walk around, look up, immerse yourself.

The Nativity, by F.H. Varley …

Nativity, F.H. Varley, St. Anne's

or, a little farther into the Chancel, the Transfiguration (left) and Calming the Tempest (right), both by J.E.H. MacDonald …

L, the Transfiguration; R, The Tempest; by J.E.H. MacDonald

and more, and more, the entire story spelled out, all around the church.

I oooh and aaah like everybody else, and then sit a long time surrounded by this glorious beauty, surrounded also by organ music — being played by a young, T-shirted organist of fine musicality and considerable endurance as well. He is non-stop.

But, finally, I do walk on.

South on Gladstone, I decide, my next destination being south & west of St. Anne’s for a Bach Festival concert on the baroque organ in the Oratorio of St. Philip Neri on King St. West.

I am still mesmerized by St. Anne’s as I walk, still seeing & hearing all that calm, radiant beauty.

Until I sidetrack myself down an alley just north of the Gladstone Hotel at Queen St. West, and meet …

attitude in an alley, n. of Queen e. from Gladstone

Glower Girl! The verb “to glower” — don’t you agree? — spelled out in visual black & white.

So now I’m back into street art, hello, let’s look around. I zig west on Queen to Dufferin, and zag south on Dufferin. Just half a block, I swear, and ka-boom, another alley, more street art.

Persue, L; Jarus, R; alley w. from Dufferin s. of Queen

Toronto street artist Jarus, of course, on the right, his fine portraiture always distinctive. But whose bunny-rabbit on the left? I automatically think Poser, but no, can immediately see that’s not quite right — and anyway, the work is signed “persue.” A definite clue!

I am no wiser until I arrive home, catch up on some of the blogs I follow, click on Richrd Schulte’s Cool San Diego Sights! — and there’s my man Persue.  He’s a San Diego artist. I love the way these guys (of both genders) get around, and work with each other as they go.

Eventually I’m down on King West, have a little time to kill before the concert, so explore for a while.

And meet a whole different kind of painted Bell box, next to the Close Av. Parkette.

I’ve shown you lots in the past, the utility boxes covered in commissioned, one-off murals (which not only look good but help deter scrawls & scribbles). Now meet a beautiful painted Bell call box, a pair of them in fact, both in working order and both tagging-free.

Also offering free calls, for a variety of social services.

free Bell calls, King W. & Close Av.

I like this a lot. It gives 24/7 access to a whole range of sources of help, from Kids Help Phone, to Telehealth Ontario, to numbers for seniors’ safety, domestic violence, emergency shelters, and general mental health. I haven’t seen this in other neighbourhoods, but hope it is a growing feature.

So it is with considerable cheer in my heart — if a wilted shirt on my back — that I finally make my way to Holy Family Church, with its oratory, and its Gober-Kney baroque organ.

Gobwr-Kney baroque organ, Holy Family Church, King St. West

Isn’t that a beauty? And oh, if you could have heard it. A virtuoso concert by Philip Fournier, opening with Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, closing an hour later with his Passacaglia & Fugue in C Minor, and magic throughout.

What a day to be in this city! I am so grateful.

Leave a comment


  1. Bunny Kitty in Toronto! Was that an amazing coincidence or what? Love it!

  2. Mary C

     /  29 May 2016

    I had no idea that Ste. Annes was so special! Next time, I won’t just walk on past.

  3. Yes, we are so lucky! Thanks for this post. I had great plans on Sunday but returned to the cool of my basement!
    I love looking at churches. The “faith” I was raised in was very austere in its sensibilities hence my mind was blown when I got to sing in a school choir that toured some of the cathedrals.
    Even though I am not a believer I love to sit in them. We had a Catholic church around the corner in Ottawa that had a black crucifix and lots of pagan symbols carved into the seats. The priest who built the church was Irish. On a hot day when the kids were away I’d just sit in there and take in the peacefulness of it.
    Glower Girl got it on! 😉

  4. What a lovely walk you had! I hope someday to follow your footsteps.


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    "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"

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