The Bells
Music | The Organ | Bells

Our Bells, And Change Ringing
A fixture of the Elbow Park soundscape for over half a century, the bells of Christ Church are still rung - not by a mechanism - but by real people pulling the ropes and ringing! Our resident ringers, The Christ Church Calgary Bell Ringer's Guild, are a dedicated group that includes both parishioners and friends of the parish. They ring to the glory of God, to support the purpose of the parish church, and to learn and improve in their skill at this art together for the joy of it.

The Story of Our Bells
Christ Church dates to 1913 and originally there was just a single bell. It came to us after ringing in St. Michael and All Angels Church (Holy Cross). That bell is now hanging at St Michael and All Angels, Canmore.

The vision of the octave of change ringing bells dates to the building of the bell tower, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1954 by Michael Ramsay, the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the early 1950, a group of parishioners, lead by Judge E. Tavender, purchased bells for the church. The bells were designed and tuned by Gillett and Johnston of Croyden, Surrey England. The three tenors were cast at the Surrey foundry and the five trebles at John Taylor of Loughborough. They hang in a conventional steel "A" frame in the upper chamber. Originally they were fitted with an Ellacombe chiming apparatus, which is now disconnected.

After a long wait, a longer voyage, and time installing the bells, they were ready to be rung. The eight bells in the tower are hung for a type of bell ringing called change ringing, an ancient English art based on mathematics. Each bell has a wheel with a rope and swings in just-over a full circle so minute changes can be made to the speed of the swinging.

So, the gift of bells came to the high prairie. Then, as now, the real gift was to find ringers! Finally, on September 8th, 1957, all eight bells were rung! And the tradition continues to this day.

Renovations to the ringing chamber, completed in 1994, include insulation and paneling, double-paned glass, new carpet and new maple seats and coat
rack making ringing conditions much more bearable in the Calgary winters.

Today, the church is working to restore the tower louvres and exterior cladding, as well as other improvements to protect bells and ringers alike especially in the winter months. Your support is most welcome!

Change Ringing and Methods
Change Ringing is a team sport, a highly coordinated musical performance, an antique art, and a demanding exercise that involves a group of people ringing rhythmically a set of tuned bells through a series of changing sequences that are determined by mathematical principles and executed according to learned patterns. In the ringing room, ringers stand in a circle, one behind each rope. The person ringing the lightest bell, the Treble, calls out the
traditional alert: "Look to!" Then as she starts her pull, "Treble's going!," and finally as the bell begins to swing downward, "She's gone!"
Each other bell is then pulled off in rapid succession creating the mesmerizing sound of a descending scale, repeated over and over again,
known as Rounds - 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8.

The ringer who has been designated the conductor will soon announce the method to be rung by calling out, for example, "Go, Grandsire Triples,"
and smoothly - if all goes well - the sequence of sounds will change from the descending scale to continually shifting orders while keeping to the
steady, even rhythm until the sequence naturally returns to Rounds again.

Change ringing has a long history. From the 12th century, the chiming of tower bells had been customary in all English villages to tell the time of day and to call people to church services. Ringing changes on these bells first arose around the year 1600 in the eastern counties of England, having been made possible by two parallel developments. The motivating development was the desire for the bells to be heard more broadly over the countryside and for the
ringers to have more control over the timing of the sound. The enabling development was the replacement of the rope and lever, which had been used from the earliest days to sound the bells with, first, quarter wheels and then, by stages, the full-circle wheels that we still use today. This approach had the great benefit of permitting the bell to sound mouth-up, projecting its voice widely up and out of the tower. It also allowed much more precise control of the timing of each blow and thereby stimulated the imagination of ringers to develop a repertoire of different methods.

No written music sheets are used during ringing. The ringers commit various methods to memory and shift within or among them according to occasional short "calls" from their conductor. Methods do not resemble either the tunes typically played on a carillon or the jangle of European style church bell ringing but instead are the majestic pealing that is associated with great English state ceremonies as well as humble village weddings. The changes in the order of the bells' sounding that constitute a method are governed by four rules and one ideal. The rules are that:
(a) each bell sounds once in each row;
(b) no bell may move more than one position at each change/row;
(c) no row is repeated; and
(d) the ringing begins and ends in Rounds.

The ideal is that the spacing should be exactly equal between every pair of bells in each row.

Local Ringing Methods and Times
Christ Church's ringers are mostly locally trained although there are some members of the band who learned to ring in England. Methods commonly rung include Plain Bob and Grandsire Doubles, Bob Minor, and Stedman Doubles. Christ Church's bells are rung every Sunday from 9:45am -10:30am and by request for weddings and funerals. Practice nights are Fridays at 6.30pm - 8.00pm and by request. Calgary winters can be extremely cold and ringing is cancelled if the temperature falls below -20 Celsius, except for special occasions.

More Information about Change Ringing
The North American Guild of Change Ringers was formed in 1972 as a means of linking change ringers to each other and supporting the growth of change ringing in North America. For more information on ringing, please speak to any member of our local guild, or see the
North American Guild of Change Ringer's Home Page.



Bell Specifications
Bells are cast in bronze and are usually quite large. In North America tower bells typically weigh between 100 and 3600 pounds and are characterized by richness, dignity, and mellowness of tone. They are typically hung in rings of 8 to 12 near the top of a tower in the belfry. Each bell is attached by its headstock to a large vertical wooden wheel and is rung by means of a long rope that runs in a channel around the wheel's rim and down into the ringing room below. This arrangement enables the ringers standing in a circle there to very precisely control their bell's rotation and, thus, its sounding. This is the tradition which Christ Church's Bells are rung.

Christ Church Bells: Specifications
Treble (B flat) - 366 lbs [3-1-2 cwt] Diameter: 22.5".
Given by an anonymous parishioner in memory of his mother, with inscription:
"To the Glory of God, 'O praise the Land of Heavens: praise him in the height.' " (Ps. 145)

Second (A) - 350 lbs
In memory of John David Southam, 1909-1954
The second is actually the lightest bell in the tower despite its pitch being a semi-tone lower than the treble.

Third (G) - 406 lbs
Presented by the Women's Guild, Nov 29, 1955.
"In this foothill city I peal my notes abroad,
That man may learn by listening to love this House of God."

Fourth (F) - 472 lbs
Given by a "thankful parishioner" (Charles S. Robinson)
"Through the vast of Heaven It sounded, and the faithful... rung"
(John Milton - "Paradise Lost")

Fifth (E Flat) - 550 lbs
In memory of Letitia Ann Hill (1895-1955) and Henry Bruce Hill (1894-1955)
"Here the prairies touch the mountains,
Here the Bow and Elbow meet.
For such beauty, Lord we thank thee,
Sung in bell notes clear and sweet."

Sixth (D) - 590 lbs
In memory of E.F.L. Tavender (1870-1950)

Seventh - (Middle C) - 708 lbs
In Memory of Florence Adele Lowes (1877-1948)

Tenor - (B Flat) - 952 lbs [8 1/2 cwt.] 35.25".
Dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sept 4th, 1954.

The verses on the third and fifth were written by Edith Hunter (Mrs. H. Murray), a parishioner.

The Church also owns a set of eight Gillett & Johnston handbells in the key of C which were supplied with the tower bells for practice use. These handbells were quite possibly the first of their kind in Calgary.

North American and Canadian Bells
There are only seven towers in Canada with bells hung for change ringing:
- Two in Quebec City,
- Calgary, Alberta - Christ Church Elbow Park, Calgary
- Mission, BC - Westminster Abbey Roman Catholic Church - 10 bells, 21 cwt
- Vancouver, BC - Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Cathedral - 8 bells, 16 cwt
- Victoria, BC - Christ Church Anglican Cathedral - 10 bells, 29 cwt.
- Toronto - St. James Anglican Cathedral - the only ring of 12 bells on the North American Continent, dedicated 1997.
There are over 20 towers in the United States (including Hawaii). For comparison, there are about six thousand in England.
It is a journey to the foothills for bell enthusiasts: as a result visitors can be few and far between but are most welcome.

Other Noteworthy Local Bells
Although there are no other bells hung for change ringing on the Canadian prairies (yet!), there are other bells of various kinds. Many churches have old train or steamship bells in their towers or elsewhere, but occasionally interesting bells surface. St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral on 18th Avenue and First Street South West has four French bells from the 19th century in the tower, a gift of then Senator Patrick Burns. The three smaller ones are hung with small wheels and cart-ropes, and the largest bell is electrically swung and controlled by an automatic mechanism. The bells still retain their original gargoyle-decorated canons and are in separate frames built by an American clock-maker. Central United Church on First Street and Seventh Ave. SW has a large chime of tubular bells which has recently been refurbished. They are played electrically from the organ console and ring the quarters and the hours. Calgary City Hall has a single bell rung mechanically by the clock. Grace Presbyterian In Banff, Alberta, there is a chime of thirteen bells in St. George's In The Pines (Anglican) rung by a small traditional carillon mechanism. The chime was a gift of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta in 1911. St. Georges is located one block off Banff Avenue near the Bow River.


"Here the prairies touch the mountains,
Here the Bow and Elbow meet.
For such beauty, Lord we thank thee,
Sung in bell notes clear and sweet."
- Edith Hunter

Christ Church's tower hosts an Octave of beautiful bells. The ringers rehearse on Friday evenings, and the bells are rung Sundays for a half hour before the 10:30 Eucharist, as well as at special services and occasions such as weddings, and are part of the musical crowning of high feasts such as Easter, Christmas and literally ringing in each New Year.

"Change-Ringing" is a rare and wonderful art: these are the only bells of their kind in the province: in fact, the only octave of bells of their kind between Ontario and British Columbia. The bells are part of the regular music of the parish, calling the community to worship, reminding the community that the parish church prays for the well-being of everyone - member or not - in the community, and that the church works faithfully to give thanks to God for over 100 years of the privilege of serving in Christ's name.

Experienced and new ringers are both welcome.
Ruth Lund, our Tower Captain, would be happy to hear from you!