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NYC Church Goes British With Its Bells

October 28, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) _ Wall Street heard the sound of 12 bells on Saturday _ announcing God, not money. 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 historic church, with Alexander Hamilton buried in its graveyard, 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.″

A ``band″ of British ringers pulled the sallies at the Episcopal church Saturday afternoon 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 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 first contacted the church about the project before the terrorist attack. Last year, Faulkes 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 more than 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.

The inaugural chime was rung Friday, 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 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 3 1/2 hours _ as long as the dozen-bell peal usually takes _ ``many of the ringers will be in a trance,″ he said.


On the Net:

Trinity Church: http://www.trinitywallstreet.org

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