News:2011:Fame In Germany

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During the mini-ringing for the Recruitment Week last year, we met Jens Etzelsberger, as journalist from the Russelsheimer Echo in Germany. He was very interested in what we were doing and about English-style bell ringing in general: largely because of the infamous episode of Midsomer Murders that featured a band of bell ringers being gradually killed-off! I had no idea that Midsomer Murders was so well-known in Germany!

Jens was keen to have a go and write an article about us and last week I received the following which appeared in their weekend magazine on the 9th April this year:

(If the above does not show in your browser, click here: File:Russelsheimer echo article.pdf to download the PDF.)


(A rough translation from Matthew Skues using Google - feel free to improve it if you can!)

Chimes on the bell rope

In Bath, young and old supporters maintain a British tradition that has been known to the German public through the TV series "Midsomer Murders".

Still the British are likely to only have fish and chips. But while the national dish emerged in the 19th century, change ringing is set in a different league of Anglo-Saxon traditions: it is old (600 years), it is practised almost exclusively in Britain, there are sporting competitions, and it is tradition that you meet to have a beer in the pub afterwards.

The German public has been aware of change ringing through the TV series "Midsomer Murders". In "Chime To Murder", a group of six bellringers is the focus.

Of course Tom Longridge knows the episode, but the young man from south-west Bath, England, insists that bellringers are not the victims of murder and homicide more often than other people. Together with his colleagues, he is under the steel bell frame that has been set up in the pedestrian area of the English spa town, that loudly advertises his tuneful hobby. Soon the bells are swinging in their frame, which allows for a rotation of 360 degrees. This as such is the suspension of the English belfry, a basic requirement for change ringing. Only this design allows for precise control of the sound timing (the moment when the clapper strikes against the bell) that is necessary for change ringing. The connection between the bell and ringer is a [puschel?] coloured rope that is thicker in its lower region. Here the bellringers pull with both hands to put the bell in rotation until it is held dead centre at the top of the suspension. A pull at the end of the rope again rotates the bell in perpendicular, before they continue swinging to the dead centre point. The task of the bellringers is to ring a sequence of sounds evenly, referred to as a "Method". The variations of the order the bells come in that can be heard, as in a canon, are many. A mathematical result for eight bells alone gives more than 40000 different combinations.

Opportunities are sufficient for Longridge and the 150 bellringers in the region to practise their hobby. There are 20 bell towers there in the surrounding area; six in the city itself. Its Abbey Church has a very respectable ten bells, but naturally the crowning of a bellringer is to ring with 16 bells, which according to Longridge is only possible in three churches worldwide.

One of them is in Manchester and of course, David Wicks, 78, one of the older bellringers of Bath, has already rung them. What constitutes the thrill of change ringing for him? "It is one of the few English things still exist," said Wicks. Also the ringing keeps the brain on its toes.

There have not been recruitment problems with the bellringers of Bath. On the contrary: among the students of the city there has been a large interest in the English tradition, says Tom Longridge.

Picture caption: Across the generations: all age groups are represented in the bell ringers of Bath, who advertise their hobby with the belfry in the pedestrian zone of the southern English city.

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