St. Mark’s Cathedral Bells
The beautiful Gothic architecture of St. Mark’s includes a bell tower modeled after the Magdalen College Tower at Oxford. In December of 2009 bells were installed in the tower, thanks to donations from St. Mark’s parishioners, along with the Choir and Altar Guild.
We are very fortunate to have a ring of eight bells hung for change ringing and nine chiming bells from Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. The oldest continuously operating manufacturing company in Great Britain, Whitechapel is the same foundry that cast Big Ben, the bells at Westminster Abbey, Washington National Cathedral, and the 0riginal Liberty Bell. There are 52 active towers in North America. St. Mark’s is the only change ringing tower in Louisiana.
Louisiana Change Ringers
A quick guide to the bells & ringers of St. Mark’s
What many think is a carillon or chimes played by a computer are actually large tower bells hung on wooden wheels in the top of the bell tower. Rung by people pulling ropes extending almost twenty feet below, St. Mark’s Change Ringers ring on Sunday mornings before and after the 10:30 a.m. Choral Eucharist and for other liturgical observances. We ring for weddings to celebrate the joy of our parishioners and toll for funerals to honor and mourn the passing of our loved ones. We ring for Anglican traditions centuries old and to commemorate days of civic and national significance.
Our instrument includes ropes and heavy bronze bells - yet neither physical strength nor musical experience is required. While there is a learning curve, the legendary ringers’ camaraderie, including travel and international friendships, begins with your first pull.
Tower Bell ringing is an inter-generational ministry. While our bells range in weight from 350 pounds to 1,050, children as young as ten can learn and some adults ring into their nineties. Some people ring as a ministry for their church, much like singing in the choir; others ring for the fellowship, fun and challenge it offers. New learners are always welcome.
Our regular weekly practice is Thursday evenings from 6 – 8 p.m. A band of youth ringers, ages 11 – 16 practice for an hour after school on Tuesday afternoons at 3:15 p.m. We also practice on a simulator with silenced bells most Saturday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Anyone is welcome to come to a St. Mark’s bell practice, see the bells and have a lesson. Visiting ringers are welcome to join us for practices, training days or Sunday Service ringing. We frequently have visiting ringers from England, Canada, and all over the U.S. If you would like t0 attend a practice or training session, contact:
Candace Higginbotham, Tower Captain at (318) 470-3001 or
Lindsey Fletcher, Ringing Master at (318) 933-7530
For more information on change ringing, see:
The North American Guild of Change Ringers: www.nagcr.org
The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers: www.cccbr.org.uk
Change Ringing - A short history
Church bell ringing has been a part
of English life since the 8th century.
In addition to the call to worship and other liturgical practices, bells
were rung for secular occasions, such as curfew bells, births, deaths, fire or
weather warnings, etc. Bells that were
chimed by swinging
through a short arc using a rope and lever date back to the early Middle Ages.
Change ringing - varying the order of bells by swapping places - was invented in the late 16th century and developed rapidly through the 17th century. In the sixteen hundreds ringers devised the full wheel which allowed enough control for full circle ringing. The innovation of change ringing required the ringer to have more control over his bell, holding it on the point of balance and varying the speed and order of ringing. He could change places with the next bell, making for more musical variations
Change ringing bells are rung starting from the mouth up position. When the rope is pulled, the bell falls, then as it swings, rises again to the mouth up position. It is the ability to stop the movement of the bell at the top of its swing that characterizes the art of change ringing. With this ability, we can control the speed of the bell and alter its position relative to the other bells. By doing this continuously, we can create a unique and wonderful form of music in an ancient tradition. These are called methods and there are literally thousands of them, from the very easy to the incredibly difficult!
The British brought change ringing to the American colonies. The oldest bells in North America are at The Old North Church in Boston, hung in 1745. Paul Revere joined the band of ringers at Old North Church in 1750 when he was fifteen years old. His familiarity with the tower and his association with its keeper enabled him to use the tower for the lantern signals that directed his famous midnight ride. In the ringing room today hangs a copy of a 1750 charter in which the guild of ringers agreed upon an organization of the tower, Paul Revere’s is the second signature on the contract.