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Monday, October 30, 2006

Trinity Church Starts British Bell Ringing Practice

Wall Street church starts British bell-ringing practice
The Associated Press


October 28, 2006

You think you just pull the rope and the bell rings, but there's a rhythm to it and you have to pay attention. It's not as easy as it looks. Wall Street heard the sound of 12 bells on Saturday _ announcing God, not money.

While the bell that opens the stock exchange was silent, the landmark Trinity Church at the top of the street rang $1 million worth of new chimes, pealing for hours according to a mathematical formula dating to the Middle Ages.

The so-called 'change-ringing' bells _ the only 12-bell set in the United States _ were installed about five years after the terrorist attack on the nearby World Trade Center that filled Trinity with ash and debris. The church was closed for two months after the attacks.

'I am delighted to continue the tradition begun in the 18th century when the British introduced change bell ringing to the colonies,' said Martin 'Dill' Faulkes, a British computer entrepreneur who worked on Wall Street in the 1980s and financed the project. 'The glory of change bell ringing is perhaps even more resonant in today's stressful environment.'

Starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, a 'band' of British ringers started pulling the sallies at the Episcopal church for a full peal of at least 5,000 'changes' _ each a mathematically calculated sound sequence for all dozen bells, instead of a particular melody. The rich cascade of sound was to be heard again on Sunday morning.

The Rev. Mark Sisk, bishop of New York's Episcopal Archdiocese, was at the altar to bless the ringers, including Faulkes, himself a change-ringer since he was 12.

He had first contacted the church about the project before the terrorist attack. Last year, Faulknes donated $1 million to refurbish the bell tower and 10 older chime bells, and to install 12 new swing bells that were created at the Taylor Foundry in Loughborough, England.

The bells _ ranging in weight from a few hundred pounds to over a ton _ were cast by pouring a molten bronze alloy into molds that were hand-crafted using a mixture of sand, water, chopped hay and horse manure.

On Friday, the inaugural chime was rung, but not a full peal.

'I had a rope-handling lesson, and it was quite humbling,' Trinity's vicar, the Rev. Anne Mallonee, said after a practice session earlier in the week. 'You think you just pull the rope and the bell rings, but there's a rhythm to it and you have to pay attention. It's not as easy as it looks.'

The bells swing 360 degrees from their frames as they're rung using 30-foot ropes, producing the shimmering sounds whose patterns change hour after hour. The more bells are involved, the longer they can be rung without repeating a pattern. For instance, six bells have 720 permutations, while 12 can go through 479,001,600.

'The hardest part is learning to control a half ton of metal with a rope,' said parishioner Tony Furnivall, who is organizing Trinity's own 'band' of ringers. 'The way you control it is by pulling not too hard. The bell does the work.'

At the end of three and a half hours _ as long as the dozen-bell peal usually takes _ 'many of the ringers will be in a trance,' he said.

Change ringing dates back to the Middle Ages, with techniques refined in the 18th century still being used now. The first peal in England was rung in 1715; the first in North America in Philadelphia in 1850 _ but with fewer bells than those at Trinity. The National Cathedral in Washington has 10 bells.

Starting Nov. 13, Trinity will offer training to anyone interested in change-ringing, which is practiced at about 50 American churches including Boston's Old North Church. The teenage Paul Revere was a ringer there.

Trinity, a classic example of Gothic Revival architecture consecrated in 1846, dominated the lower Manhattan skyline as a beacon for ships sailing into New York Harbor. With Alexander Hamilton buried in its graveyard, Trinity is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


On the Net:

Trinity Church: http://www.trinitywallstreet.org
The North American Guild of Change Ringers: http://www.nagcr.org

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.


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