Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Organs and Bells


Martin Cooke
 Share

Recommended Posts

I'm sure that many of us cannot bear playing the organ against bells. When I play for a wedding (as a visiting organist) nobody can understand why I want to establish a working relationship with the ringers so that we both get to do our bit before the service.

 

However, at the school where I'm involved, there is a single chapel bell which tolls for 5 minutes before each service. This is, of course, nothing like as intrusive (against the organ) as a peal, but in view of the fact that we might want to replace the bell, I wonder if anyone has any view at all as to what note it might sound so as to 'chime' most harmonically with pre-service music. Is that a completely ridiculous question?? I suppose I'm hoping someone will say that a D crops up in more organ music than an F sharp, or something!

 

Any thoughts?

 

Martin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mind that the variety of pitch in regard of temperature changes might affect the bell and your organ quite differently, so something that works in summer could be out of tune in winter....!

 

But I'd like to point you to the most intimate connection of organ and a tolling bell:

Harald Vogel recorded a very early organ piece on the beautiful late gothic organ of Rysum, East Frisia, Germany, the Redeuntes in mi by Conrad Paumann, and this recording features the piece as an overlay to a tolling bell in the root pitch.

Vogel is sure, that during mediaeval processions not only the organist corresponded to the sound of a tolling bell, but even the bellow treaders might have followed that meter, creating a synchronous pulse for all the worshipping pilgrims...

He concluded that from the "Redeuntes" models like those by Paumann and by questioning, what they could have been used for. There must be some evidence (I can't remember his elaborations in detail) for uneven wind in the large mediaeval Halberstadt organ, described by Michael Praetorius,or he found out by researching the building principles of early bellow arrays. He meant, if the bellow-treading motions are audible in the organ sound, it would be senseful to give them any musical meaning by synchronizing them to the organ music or external sounds, like a tolling bell....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A small, high-pitched bell is easier to cope with than a larger one with a more assertive pitch. It may be easy to instal some sort of sound-proofing so that the intrusion of bell-noise into the chapel is minimised.

 

In my youth, I found the best way to reconcile bells and organ was to learn to ring. Some of the best outings I've had have been ringing ones! That's not what your problem is about, however....

 

We have one bell here - it sounds a flat F sharp and is impossible to compete with!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My school chapel bell tolls in Db - life would be a lot easier if I could chisel a few lumps off it and get it up to D. Or maybe I should tune the organ to a415?

 

Whilst playing in Germany I have come across a number of churches where the bells are controlled by the organist via a switchboard at the console. I first discovered this whilst practising late at night at one such church with one of my pupils acting as page turner. He started fiddling with what he took to be the controls of a PA system: having woken up most of the town we received a visit from a most disgruntled priest. Luckily I don't speak any Deutsch so it was he who had to deal with the fellow - served him right!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Presumably the problem is more acute for organs situated on a west gallery under the tower (unless you are in one of our larger churches with a central tower). I would suggest that if you can't hear the organ for the sound of the bells than that would surely be enough justification for a bigger organ, or at least a new Tuba stop ...

 

On a related note, I was having a conversation with my brother, who is a bell ringer, and the theme turned to hymn tunes. We were trying to think of a hymn tune that can be played on a ring of bells (not a carillon). We couldn't come up with one, can any of this forum's members think of anything? The rules are: ideally LM, but CM or SM could work, no note can be repeated in the same line.

 

D.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A friend of mine was giving a recital in Holy Trinity, Wall Street, New York, pre-9/11, and didn't realise he was connected up to the tower carillon until informed of the fact, somewhat forcefully, by the Verger.

 

========================

 

 

What excellent humour.......garden shears, the no bell peace prize and now a carillon peeling out the Vierne Finale across New York....priceless. :D

 

I shall probably burst out laughing on Sunday without warning, when the toll starts. Mercifully, "our" bell has a leather damper, so it sounds a bit like dustbin lids being bashed together, which although not very musical, doesn't make too much of a din inside the church.

 

Best,

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On a related note, I was having a conversation with my brother, who is a bell ringer, and the theme turned to hymn tunes. We were trying to think of a hymn tune that can be played on a ring of bells (not a carillon). We couldn't come up with one, can any of this forum's members think of anything? The rules are: ideally LM, but CM or SM could work, no note can be repeated in the same line.

 

D.

1st & 3rd lines of Belfry Praise (AMR 496)?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

At least, "Ding, dong, merrily on high" should always work...?

 

 

BTW, this is one of the English carols I could listen to/sing all year long. Is it just because of the foreign language that one can stand carols even outside christmas season?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One couldn't 'play' a hymn tune on bells hung in the English fashion with ropes and wheels, and as Choir_Man points out, in English change-ringing a bell can only sound once in each line (Fabian Stedman was way ahead of Arnold Schonberg in this!).

 

MGP mentions the tune 'Belfry Praise'. Here, the opening of the first line is the descending scale -'rounds' - and that of the third line the odd numbers followed by the even - 1,3,5,7,2,4,6,8, known as 'queens'. Furthermore, these figures appear in the bass in the fifth and seventh lines. It's a good tune and a good hymn, and was certainly much enjoyed in the days when I used to ring.

 

In the Rivoli Veronese area of Italy, there are a number of towers with bells hung on full wheels. Here, they do ring tunes, holding the bell on the balance until it is needed again. It sounds terribly difficult! English ringers have visited and rung changes on these bells.

 

When 'letting the bells down' so that they are resting with mouths downwards rather than held mouths up by their wooden stays (which should always be done after ringing if there's any chance of non-ringers getting into the belfry), the final act is to 'miss and catch', which means that the bells are allowed to swing silently once, then the rope is caught sharply and they speak for the last time. A neat catch is something to be striven for. It's traditional to 'miss and catch in rounds', or 'miss and catch in queens', or even 'miss and catch in tittums' (1,5,2,6,3,7,4,8), but if you only have five bells, you can 'miss and catch in Pop goes the Weasel' (1,4,2,3,5). That's the nearest I can think of to playing tunes!

 

Of course, if you have a chiming apparatus (usually the variety known as Ellacombe), you can play tunes on it, but with a normal diatonic ring you tend to be stymied by the absence of sharps, so a tune which modulates will be impossible. 'Hyfrydol' goes nicely, and 'Eudoxia' was inspired by the five bells at West Mersea in Essex.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One couldn't 'play' a hymn tune on bells hung in the English fashion with ropes and wheels, and as Choir_Man points out, in English change-ringing a bell can only sound once in each line (Fabian Stedman was way ahead of Arnold Schonberg in this!).

 

 

Yes, of course, I was not clear in my reply. Even as a joke, it referred to music which could be played along to chiming bells, sought in the opening post....

 

The art of change-ringing is to be highly admired. Though those various kinds of mentioned artistry in Italy, which put the ringers often at a very high risk by getting hands on bells and clappers directly (youtube shows plenty of such scenes) are fascinating, too. But this strange system of English change-ringing, which is not commanded by musical means but mathematical patterns, is one of those things you can find on your islands only.

 

When I was promoting our huge bell restoration project here, I got "The Nine Tailors" by Dorothy L. Sayer as a gift. In her foreword she says something like the above about the art of ringing, which could only have been developed in England. A very nice book.

Are there any similar books dealing with crime and organs involved?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Try "Until I find you" by John Irving - from Amazon, where you will find a summary, or from other booksellers. A review says, "John Irvin's new novel UNTIL I FIND YOU covers the life of the protagonist Jack Burns from the age of four until his early 30's. The illegitimate son of William (R.C.O.), a church organist and lover of tattoos (an ink addict), and "Daughter Alice," a fulltime tattoo artist-- her speciality is a tattoo called "Rose of Jericho"-- and sometime prostitute, Jack spends over 800 pages searching for his absent father."

 

A rather grubby story, but there are many references to visits to organs in many churches in different countries.

 

"He would go on until his body was a sheet of music and every inch was a note ...".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I was promoting our huge bell restoration project here, I got "The Nine Tailors" by Dorothy L. Sayer as a gift. In her foreword she says something like the above about the art of ringing, which could only have been developed in England. A very nice book.

Are there any similar books dealing with crime and organs involved?

I think there's been quite an extensive discussion of organ-related fiction (chiefly crime-go figure!) on this board some years ago. Wouldn't know what words to search for except possibly Edmund Crispin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...