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The Bells of Christ Church

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We are happy to train new members of the Guild, and to welcome visitors and change ringers from elsewhere. Ringers are normally required to attend weekly Friday evening practice and ring for one Sunday service.

For information on ringing times and instruction at Christ Church Click Here or go to News and Events/Calendar or contact the tower captain.

The eight bells in the tower are hung for a type of bell-ringing called “change ringing,” an ancient English art based in mathematics. Each bell has a wheel with a rope, and swings in just over a full circle, so that minute changes can be made to the speed of the swinging.

The Art and Practice of Change Ringing

Bells have been rung for centuries to call the faithful to service, express the joy of weddings, triumph of victories, sorrow of funerals and in remembrance of the dead. Nowadays many of the sounds we hear from church steeples are recordings, but there are still real bells being rung today. Some play tunes – recognisable hymns or melodies. These are carillons or chimes with bells hung statically and sounded by the striking of clappers all controlled by one person. The Peace Tower in Ottawa has such a set of bells and the Calgary Tower has an electronic version.

But some bells are hung so that they swing and cause the clapper to strike inside the bell. Sets of bells hung this way produce no recognisable tunes. Instead they are rung in disciplined sequences that go back to the Middle Ages in England. It was, however, only in the seventeenth century that ringers developed the full wheel, which allowed enough control for today's precision ringing .

Bells for change ringing are hung in stout frames that allow the bells to swing just over 360º . Each bell is attached to a wooden wheel with a rope running round it and down from the bell chamber to the ringing chamber below. A ring of bells contains bells of varying weight, from a few hundred pounds to several tons. The mechanism achieves such exquisite balance that ten-year-olds and octogenarians can control the largest bell, easily.

In the ringing chamber a circle of ringers stand, one at each of the ropes, controlling the bell attached above. The bell will be rung from the “mouth up” position. With a pull of the rope, the bell swings down, sounds once, and continues though a full circle to rest, just past the point of balance, on the stay, and again in the “up” position. The next pull, the backstroke, pulls it back around to its original position and sounds it once again.

Change ringing requires ringers to work as a team so that their bells follow one another in order, each ringing once before the first rings again.

Rung in the order from the lightest, highest-pitched bell to the heaviest, the bells strike in a sequence called "rounds", which ringers denote by a row of numbers: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 .

To produce pleasing variations in sound, bells are made to change places with adjacent bells in the row, for example: 1 2 3 4 5 6 8 becomes 2 1 4 3 6 5 8 7 . No bell moves more than one place in the row at a time, although more than one pair may change in the same row. In an orderly manner the bells will continue to change position until eventually they are back in the original order: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Depending on the method being rung, this may take just a few changes or many.

In the Plain Hunt method on four bells (Minimus) shown below, every eighth change sees the bells back in their original order. If you follow the track of the first bell, the “treble,” you can see that each bell “hunts” to the back, and then returns to lead in turn.

Plain Hunt Minimus

The steady rhythm and correct order of the sequences requires practised bell-handling and a good memory. So change ringers spend many enjoyable hours listening to, and ringing bells. And once one method is mastered , there is always another to learn, or a conductor to command a change in the sequence by shouting ”bob”; often when concentration isn’t quite what it should be!

THE DETAILS OF THE BELLS ARE:-

The bells were designed and tuned by Gillett and Johnston of Croyden, Surrey England, and cast at their foundry (the three tenors), and at John Taylor of Loughborough (the five trebles). After a sea journey via the Panama Canal and a long road trip from Vancouver through the Rocky Mountains, the eight bells were installed by Taylors and were first rung together on September 8, 1957. They hang in a conventional steel A-frame, and were originally fitted with an Ellacombe chiming apparatus, which is now disconnected.

Treble
366 lbs [31/2 cwt] (B flat) Diameter: 22.5 inches.
Given by an anonymous parishioner in memory of his mother. Bears an inscription from Psalm 145

To the glory of God O praise the Lord of heavens: praise him in the height.

Second
305 lbs (A)
In memory of John David Southam, 1909 – 1954. The second is actually the lightest bell in the tower, despite its pitch being a semitone lower than the treble.

Third
406 lbs (G)
Presented by the Women’s Guild, November 29, 1955. Inscribed with a verse written by Edith Hunter Murray, a parishioner:

In this foothill city I peal my notes abroad, that man may learn by listening to love this house of God.

Fourth
472 lbs (F)
Given by a “thankful parishioner” (Charles S. Robinson). Inscribed with a quotation from Milton’s Paradise Lost:

Through the vast of heaven it sounded, and the faithful …. rung

Fifth
550 lbs (E flat)
In memory of Letitia Ann Hill (1895-1955) and Henry Bruce Hill (1894-1955) and inscribed with a verse by Edith Hunter:

Here the prairies touch the mountains, here the Bow and Elbow meet. For such beauty, Lord, we thank thee, sung in bell notes clear and sweet.

Sixth
590 lbs (D)
In memory in E.F.L. Tavender (1870-1950).

Seventh
708 lbs (middle C)
In memory of Florence Adele Lowes (1877-1948).

Tenor
952 lbs (8 1/2 cwt.) (B flat) Diameter:32.25 inches. Dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury, September 4, 1954.

The Church also owns a set of eight Gillett & Johnston handbells in the key of C, which were supplied with the tower bells for practice use. These handbells were quite possibly the first of their kind in Calgary.

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