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Niagara Falls
Friday, July 12, 2024
Bells of St. Mark’s come alive on long-weekend Sundays
Bernadette Secco, seen in the St. Mark’s church belfry, will present contemporary music on the bells, each Sunday of the three summer long weekends. The first concert is this Sunday, June 30. FILE PHOTO

For 195 years, the bells of St. Mark’s Church have been heralding important events in Niagara-on-the-Lake, marking disasters, tragedies and celebrations.

This summer, on the Sundays of the three long weekends, the chimes will ring with free contemporary music concerts, performed by Bernadette Secco, an accomplished local chimer.

The free concerts will begin at noon, rain or shine, on July 2, Aug. 6 and Sept. 3, in the church’s yard, located at 41 Byron St.

The audience is encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for the casual concert.

St. Mark’s rector, Leighton Lee, couldn’t be prouder.

“The bells of St Mark’s are a unique treasure and we’re delighted to be able to offer these summer concerts. There’s something magical about sitting in St Mark’s beautiful churchyard while listening to the bells,” she said.

Jim Bourne, St. Mark’s music director, said Secco played a chiming concert at the church for the coronation of King Charles III in May.

“The response was remarkable. People loved it. Everyone was perched on the stone wall, or on a blanket. It felt so good,” he said.

Each Sunday will highlight a different repertoire, Secco said. July 2, after Canada Day, will feature songs by Canadians, about the country and its people. August will have music about summer and summer activities. Labour Day Sunday, she said, “will be music that’s just plain fun.”

“My chiming philosophy is, ‘Make the bells swing, let people sing,'” she said.

Secco chimes bells every chance she gets. Her varied and extensive repertoire encompasses hymns, show tunes, traditional and patriotic songs and classical music.

The bells of St. Mark’s have grown in number and stature to become one of the three largest chimes in Ontario and among the largest of any of the province’s small parish churches.

From the original bell in 1828, the chiming set has grown, with the addition of a final bell to commemorate the War of 1812 in 2012, for 19 bells total.

The total weight of all 19 St. Mark’s bells is 5,852 pounds — almost three tons. The largest of the bells is 1,240 pounds, while the smallest is 92 pounds. 

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Chimer, Bernadette Seco, admires the 19 bells, high in the belfry of St. Mark’s Church on Byron Street. She will be performing free chiming concerts on the three long-weekend summer Sundays this year.

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