The annual Toronto Mennonite Festival always puts the focus on the quilt auction that is surrounded by food vendors. So their two free music programs don’t get much publicity, despite the importance of vocal music in the Mennonite tradition.
Free Music in the Town Hall Green at Black Creek Pioneer Village
Visitors strolling in the Black Creek Pioneer Village town hall green will hear free musical performances much of the day. That program takes a break during the quilt auction, which starts at noon. Otherwise, a variety of folk and gospel music mingles with the aroma of apple fritters, Sloppy Joes, sausage on sauerkraut, and other foods reflecting past or modern Mennonite cuisine from different backgrounds.
Join the Four Part Harmony of Mennonite Singing
The other musical gem is hidden in the Mennonite Meeting House. Starting at 10:30am, some Mennonites from Toronto and the GTA will sing for up to an hour. You’re invited to sing along with the Mennonites singing in four part harmony; “no experience is required”. Or simply listen to a few of their hymns.
The Meetinghouse is building 39 in the official Black Creek Pioneer Village map (PDF). After you go north from the entrance in the Visitor Centre building, turn right (east) as you pass the first building. (That’s the tin smith shop and Masonic Lodge). The next building is the Mennonite Meeting House.
If you cannot get to the Toronto Mennonite Festival on Sept. 20, 2014, you could visit one of the “Mennonite Churches in Toronto and the GTA“. These worship services are open to anyone.
To illustrate how seriously Mennonites take their music, many congregations currently have one hardcover hymnal and two supplementary spiral-bound song books. Often these are simply called the “blue hymnal, green hymnal or purple hymnal” during church services. “Hymnal: A Worship Book” was published in 1992; the others are more recent. Order one or more for yourself:
- “The Mennonite Hymnal: A Worship Book” in Canada or in the USA via Amazon.
- “Sing the Journey” in Canada or in the USA via Amazon.
- “Sing the Story” in Canada or in the USA via Amazon.
Of course, the Toronto Mennonite Festival could use a slightly older reddish-brown hymnal, or any of three older versions published in the second half of the 20th century. With more than two centuries under its belt, Mennonite denominations have enjoyed a rich tradition of singing hymns in 4 part harmony. (Reference: “History of Published Mennonite Hymnals“).
When and Where is the 2014 Toronto Mennonite Festival?
The Toronto Mennonite Festival is an annual autumn Toronto event on the third Saturday of September; Sept. 20, 2014 this year. The entrance opens at 10am. As noted, the four part singing starts at 10:30. The quilt auction begins at noon. The whole event wraps up around 4pm.
Black Creek Pioneer Village hosts the Toronto Mennonite Festival. It’s just west of the main York University campus. The address is 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, which runs south from Steeles Ave. just east of Jane St. and well west of Keele St.
Free Live Music at the Junction Music Festival on Sept. 20, 2014
“But wait! there’s more” singing in Toronto this Saturday.
The Junction Music Festival also runs on Saturday Sept. 20, 2014. It boasts free live music on five stages on Dundas St. West between Quebec Ave. & Indian Grove. The event is centred on Keele St. & Dundas St. W.; and there are smaller performances as well all along Dundas Street.
I’d suggest taking transit via TTC buses that connect to the Number 2 Bloor-Danforth subway line. The 30 Lambton bus come from the High Park subway station; the 40 Junction bus links at Dundas West; and the 41 Keele and 89 Weston buses from the Keele station.
If I were going there for lunch, I’d start at the west end with the on-street buskers and “Live music all day” at the Axis Gallery and Grill. The first stage shows, as well as many of the other performances, start in the early afternoon and run into the evening.
Manifesto Live at Yonge Dundas Square
Also on Sept. 20, 2014, Yonge Dundas Square hosts free live music and dance for the Manifesto festival. This “festival of community and culture” runs from Sept. 17-21, 2014, at a variety of venues.
Again, for the live free performances at Yonge Dundas Square, the TTC should be your chariot of choice, whether the Number 1 Yonge subway line is running or you have to rely on the 505 Dundas streetcar.
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Thanks for reading about Mennonite singing four part harmony in Toronto at Black Creek Pioneer Village, as well as the other free music performances this weekend at Yonge Dundas Square and at the Junction Music Festival.