The Face Behind The Bells

(Illustration: Jessie McLaughlin)

If you’ve ever been in Old Town on a Sunday morning, you’ve heard the bells chime at St. John’s. 

Churchgoers and Sunday morning strollers alike have been privy to this ritual since 1902, when the bells were gifted to the church by Charles Edwin Kaulbach.

There have been seven Master Chimers since their installation –  Peter Allen, a lifelong Lunenburger, has had the privilege for 41 years.

Allen started playing music at a young age, joining the Junior and Senior band in school and playing with the Chester Brass Band. 

With decades of practice, the chime tower of only ten bells isn’t limiting for Allen, who has to transpose songs he wants to play to fit the set. 

Allen particularly likes playing “Hyfrydol”, also known as “Hallelujah, Sing to Jesus” or “Love Divine”, because he can show off the perfectly-tuned bells by playing harmonies and counter-melodies on top of the simple tune.

Allen’s commitment to the bells doesn’t end with the Sunday morning program. When the church burned down in 2001, four bells were damaged when the tower collapsed. 

After they were recast and tuned by a bell foundry in Georgetown, Ohio, a process which Allen oversaw, Allen built a replica chimestand partially using reclaimed wood from the fire.

Next time you hear the chiming of the bells at St John’s, know there are over 120 years of dedication behind their sound. 

As Allen notes, “The chimes themselves is [sic] something that unfortunately in a lot of locations have been neglected or let go either due to lack of interest or repair”. 

We are lucky to have both the bells and the expert in Lunenburg.


One response to “The Face Behind The Bells”

  1. Doreen Hart

    You are so fortunate to have someone who cherishes the bells and is able to honour them by giving others the marvellous pleasure of listening to them each day.

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