Calgary

Banff's bells: Music teacher plays church bells daily to lift spirits

A new ritual has started in an Alberta mountain town. A music teacher is playing songs, from Amazing Grace to All My Loving by the Beatles, on church bells that ring throughout the community.

Laid-off workers, people in isolation clap and cheer from their balconies

The new ritual began with Heather Jean Jordan, the music director at St. George-in-the-Pines Anglican Church in Alberta. 1:25

You've probably heard about people in Italy singing on their balconies, but how about those in Banff cheering to the sounds of bells?

Bells are ringing every day as part of a new ritual by Heather Jean Jordan, a singer-songwriter and music teacher based in the mountain town of Banff, Alta.

Jordan started by performing the bells in a livestream, after the Sunday service at St. George-in-the-Pines was cancelled. People contacted her afterward to say the sounds made them feel hopeful.

"The first Sunday that we did it, people said it touched them and that they really needed that, and I was like, 'Well, I don't have any other work really, so I might as well do it every day,'" Jordan told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.

She received positive reactions from members of the community, which has been hit hard economically by COVID-19.

So Jordan, who is the Anglican church's music director, contacted the rector to see if she could ring the bells every day at 1 p.m. MT. You can watch her play in the video above.

"Half the town is laid off, so it's a very quiet town, but you can hear it way across the river up into the Middle Springs area," she said.

History of the bells

The set of 11 peal bells was purchased for St. George-in-the-Pines Church in 1927. The peal of bells was the first of its kind to come to Canada, Jordan said.

"They were installed in honour of those who fought in the First World War, and they came up the Panama Canal from England," Jordan said.

She added that playing the bells is similar to a keyboard or xylophone, but the sound is controlled by a series of 11 levers. The music echoes across Banff.

"Even with ear protection, it is very loud. I'm getting so much sound, I'm not hearing the true sound of the bells," she said.

Playing the church bells for the residents of Banff has become a daily ritual for singer-songwriter Heather Jean Jordan. (Daniel Thomson)

Some of Jordan's daily musical performances include renditions of Amazing Grace, Ode to Joy and Beatles' songs, such as All My Loving.

She said she first learns the tunes on piano and then figures out how to translate them for the bells.

Jordan said she's not getting paid to perform the bells but that it's a small thing to do for her community.

"You might feel low in the morning but when you get there it's like, 'Well, I got to ring these bells because there are people who are waiting for them,'" she said. "There's something about bells because by the end I'm feeling really good," she said.


With files from Monty Kruger and the Calgary Eyeopener.

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