St. Paul’s is fortunate to have one of only about 30 sets (called rings) of change ringing bells in North America. The only other ring in Illinois is at the University of Chicago. Ours is a ring of eight bells.
Change ringing bells do not produce recognizable tunes, but are rung in orderly sequences that make for music that many people find joyful, contemplative, even mesmerizing. Sequences are rung in rows. There are two rows to a round, with a pause of one beat at the beginning of each new round. The lowest bell is called the tenor, the highest pitched bell is the treble. Some people find it pleasurable to identify these two bells working their way through various rounds.
Listening need not be an intellectual exercise, however. It is very enjoyable to just sit back and soak up the steady rhythms and the mathematically precise and ever-changing patterns. You are encouraged to bring a lawn chair and sit in our front yard for a peal. It is a delightfully different kind of music.
Change ringing was begun in the 17th century and brought to the American colonies by the British. Paul Revere was a change ringer at the Old North Church in Boston when he was 15 years old. He later made notable use of the bell tower in the American Revolution.
St. Paul’s ring was built in 1968 by England’s acclaimed Whitechapel Bell Foundry. They were designed as an experimental, transportable belfry to illustrate change ringing to a wide audience, and to demonstrate how a light ring of bells could be installed in a relatively slender tower.
The bells were last used in England in 1990, as part of the official celebration of the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday. They were transported to St. Paul’s in February of 1991.
St. Paul’s Ringers
St. Paul’s Ringers is an inter-generational group. The group normally rings the bells from the first Sunday in May through October, and on special occasions throughout the year.
It is said if you can ride a bicycle, you have the intellectual and physical capacity to be a change ringer. One can become a very good ringer without knowing anything about music. Change ringers are known for their companionable nature and a fondness for ice cream.
Parishoners who would like to get involved or get to know more should speak to Allison Olson, Allen Baum, or James Baum.
Visitors and newcomers from outside the parish are also welcome. You need not be Anglican, or even Christian. Come for a practice, stay for the ice cream! Contact bell captain Allison Olson: allihouha [at] juno [dot] com
Visiting groups of bell-ringers from around the country and around the world are also welcomed from time to time. If your group would like to visit, contact the bell captain Allison Olson: allihouha [at] juno [dot] com