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'I've been hooked ever since': The complicated art of change ringing – CBC.ca

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Michael Connidis leads the way up a narrow chamber to a place many get to hear, but not see.

“This is the belfry in the church tower,” he says, with his arms stretched out pointing to eight massive bells that are hung mouth up, ready to be pulled by ropes that hang below.

The bells are over 100 years old and were mounted at the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cathedral at Dunsmuir and Richards streets for the centuries-old art of change ringing. 

“I just love it,” said Connidis, who is with the Vancouver Society of Change Ringers. 

The bells date back to 1905. The ones made in France have detailed embellishing compared to the ones cast in England. Some have a City of Vancouver engraving on them. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The practice dates back to 17th century England, where there are still thousands of churches with change-ringing bells. Here in Canada, there are seven, including three in B.C. 

Several times a week a small but devoted group of bell ringers gather in the ringing chamber to practise. They will also be ringing the bells this Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve. 

Alan Ellis has been change ringing for over 60 years. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Most of them aren’t churchgoers, but are attracted to the complicated process of sounding the bells.

As The North American Guild of Change Ringers puts it on their website, “Change ringing is a team sport, a highly co-ordinated musical performance, an antique art, and a demanding exercise that involves a group of people ringing rhythmically a set of tuned bells through a series of changing sequences that are determined by mathematical principles and executed according to learned patterns.” 

Connidis came to the art form by chance. He was walking past the church one day when he heard the bells and looked up to find people pulling on the ropes in the tower. 

“I’ve been hooked ever since…. I can’t describe how it just grabbed me,” he said.

You can catch the bells ring at the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cathedral on Dunsmuir and Richards streets in downtown Vancouver on the following days and times:

Christmas Eve – Tuesday, Dec. 24 from 10:25 p.m. until 11 p.m. 

New Year’s Eve – Tuesday, Dec. 31 from 11:25 to midnight.

Johanna Vandenberg, 24, was intrigued to learn more after reading a mystery novel set in a bell tower. After that it took three months of practice until she was able to ring a bell on her own. 

“I like the challenge. I like learning new stuff all the time and trying to be better at these kind of things and I just love the sound of bells,” she said.

While the bells are heavy — the heaviest weighs the same as a Volkswagen Beetle — ringing them is not a physically taxing job if you do it properly. 

The ringers stand in a circle with red wool mats in front of them. The mats are there to protect the ropes, otherwise the ropes would suffer damage and need to be replaced sooner than their current eight-year cycle. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Though the bells are heavy, anyone can swing them with the right technique. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

“I’ve rung with someone in [their] 90s, I’ve rung with people who are in wheelchairs, I’ve rung with people who are blind. So you can do it. It’s not a matter of strength but matter of finesse,” said Connidis.

Change-ringing is more math than music. 

Bell ringers memorize from what is called a book of methods, which shows in what sequence the bells are rung. There are thousands of possibilities. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Ringers have to memorize the sequence of how the bells are rung from what’s called the book of methods. And there are thousands of possibilities or permutations. 

“They weave back and forth. You learn the method by learning the pattern itself and then you have to learn where you start on that pattern on each individual bell,” said Connidis, pointing to the equivalent of a music sheet.

Johanna Vandenberg, 24, was intrigued to learn more about change ringing after reading a mystery novel. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

It requires teamwork and unwavering concentration, which is why there are three golden rules when you’re in the ringing chamber.

“The first is when we are ringing please don’t talk,” said Connidis.

Change ringing requires plenty of concentration. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The second is when you’re sitting down keep both feet on the ground.

“These ropes are potentially hazardous, they can catch you on your feet or ankles and flip you upside down pretty quickly, and it has happened,” he said. 

The third rule is to not touch any of the ropes, unless you’re invited to do so.

But the folks at the Vancouver Change Ringers Society are very welcoming and are always looking for volunteers to keep the tradition alive.

The bells will be ringing on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cathedral at the corner of Dunsmuir and Richards streets. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.

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Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.

1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery

In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.

Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood.
Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party

Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

3. Check out local performers

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Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at persephonetheatre.org and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.

4. Have some family fun

The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at fudds.ca or by calling 306-477-0808.

5. Drop off your hazardous waste

The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at saskatoon.ca/hazardouswaste.

  1. Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring

    Little art gallery brings colour, connection to Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood

  2. Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon

    Persephone Theatre brings in community co-leads for new Artists’ Working Group

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio

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Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.

The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.

“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”

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Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.

Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.

“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.

“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”

‘We need a territorial gallery’

The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.

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“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”

YK ARCC’s first home is pictured in 2011. Photo: Submitted
Casey Koyczan stands in front of a painting at a YK ARCC show in 2014. Photo: Submitted

Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.

The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.

“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.

That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”

The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.

“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”

“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.

“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”

YK ARCC debuted its mobile gallery in the summer of 2019. Pictured are board member Brian McCutcheon and artist Terry Pamplin. Photo: Submitted
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Art by Shelley Vanderbyl is displayed in Yellowknife’s mobile gallery in May 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A YK ARCC show in 2018, called Social Fabric, was held inside a former bank in the Centre Square Mall. Thirty-two artists were featured and 800 people attended. Photo: Submitted

Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.

“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.

“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.

“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”

‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery

In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.

The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”

“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”

Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.

“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”

More spaces that can host art are on the way.

Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.

Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.

As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.

YK ARCC staged an outdoor installation in 2017. Photo: Submitted
Rosalind Mercredi, first president of YK ARCC, at the mobile gallery. Photo: Submitted

“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”

Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”

“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.

“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”

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