For a demonstration click here:
. Now, imagine a circle of people alternately pulling on ropes in never-repeating sequences,and you have change ringing. Click here for a demonstration:
.Seems simple enough, right?Not so much. The basics can be learned quickly with practice, Clark says; however, he
believes what “draws people .
. . is that it is so different [from] modern life. It takes anincredibly long time to master the . . . fraction of a second [timing necessary] . . . . No
instant gratification here!”
Each bell in a ring
sometimes consisting of as many as twelve bells
is a different size andweight. Each must be precisely tuned, alone and with the others. An eight-bell ring, as at
St. Paul’s, covers a complete octave. The “small” treble bell, tuned to F
#, weighs as muchas a baby elephant at over 400 pounds and is 26 inches across. The large, sonorous tenor
also tuned to F#, but an octave lower
weighs as much as a draft horse at 1,495 poundsand is 48 inches across.
To simplify learning various “methods” (e.g., Grandsire Triples,
Plain Bob Doubles), the bells are numbered, beginning at #1 with the treble bell, and
represented on charts called “bluelines.” But there’s also an app for that! Called
a ringing simulator for an
The method made possible by wheel-hung bells comes with a price. Traditional songsrequire a quicker and more complex timing that is impossible to render on large, slow bells.About the most you can hope for on five bells is the last line of
“Pop Goes the Weasel,”
designated as 14235.
Instead, change ringers aspire to develop the necessary ear, coordination, concentration,
and memory to ring what’s called a “peal.” This consists of at least five thousand sequences,
none repeated, and can last as long as three hours. On ten bells a complete performance
(or “extent”) would consist of more than 3,600,000 changes—or “permutations” in
and take 90 days to complete!
Many say the world’s best ringers are at Westminster Abbey. I
magine being there in April2011 for the royal wedding of Prince William and Princess Kate. The ten bells were
“swinging and ringing,” “rhyming and chiming.”
You put your hands over your ears tomuffle the sound but still felt the vibrations in your body. What? No imagination? No
problem. Here’s a video clip:
Want to take up change ringing but live too far away from a tower band? The solutionmight be a handbell group, also listed on the NAGCR site. Without the timing restrictions of the big bells, handbell groups can ring changes and songs.
Most church bel
ls today can be rung at the push of a button, but for Clark that’s an inferior
pushing activates hammers that strike stationary bells. “The tonalcharacteristics,” he says, are completely different. “The bell [that rings as it’s moving]
uces more harmonics” and a louder, richer tone.
“[T]here is,” he continues, “peculiar beauty in imperfection. The best band of ringers willnever strike with 100% precision.” Although computers generate “perfect” music, people
still prefer to hear a live orchestra.
The Japanese call this phenomenon “wabi
sabi”: theflawed, human element that paradoxically affirms an art’s authenticity.
Besides, he says,
ringing bells by hand with a group of people “is a lot more fun.”