Ringing on Cape Cod
Boston ringers help get Orleans ringing
A while back we started hearing rumors about a ring of ten bells that Whitechapel was scheduled to cast for a church in Orleans, MA. There was an air of mystery about it, without a lot of facts. The issue of the Ringing World with the cover article about Queen Elizabeth's visit to the foundry mentioned the bells (the back six were cast while she was there), but they didn't seem too real to us until I got an email from someone in the office at the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod. The Old North Church web page about our bells links to me, so I get a lot of random requests, but this one was more startling than most. The bells were about to clear customs in Boston, they had dozens of people who had signed up to learn to ring, what should they do?
After consultations with bellhanger Neil Thomas, some email exchanges online, and some long discussions in the towers in Boston, Ed Futcher, assisted by a bunch of Boston ringers, put together an afternoon intensive course that included history, theory, handbells, and brief handling lessons. On August 9, thirty-five learners visited Old North and the Church of the Advent, leaving five hours later with heads stuffed full of change ringing. Neil had given introductory backstrokes to about half of them, but many of them were total novices before they arrived.
Some background is needed here. The bells are in a free-standing tower next to the Church of the Transfiguration (both of them in Romanesque style, new construction). The services at the church are open to the public, but the vast majority of people involved in worship there are members of the Community of Jesus, either as sisters and brothers in the monastic tradition or among families and single people who live nearby. All of the beginners learning in Orleans are part of the Community, although that may change, as they have posted information about their practice times to the world at large.
Neil wanted a band to visit to try out the new fittings, so on the 14th about ten Boston ringers and the whole Russell family rang, gave notes (not many - they go very well) to Neil, had a lovely lunch provided by the folks there, and spent the afternoon giving more handling lessons.
The bells are about thirty feet up (a guess - I'm not good at measurements) in the hundred foot tower. The ringing room is on ground floor but is only loosely speaking a room - it's open to the outdoors on all four sides. I think it was the first time I've applied sun screen to ring.
The Community planned a service of celebration including the first public ringing for September 27th. Ed Futcher took on the task of organizing handling lessons at both Orleans and the Church of the Advent, with the long journeys each way. The bells at Orleans remained fully muffled for all of this training and practice time, but the learners from Orleans could hear the bells at the Advent more clearly, and some of them began to work on ringing rounds.
On the afternoon of the big day, there were more muffled handling lessons, then the muffles were finally removed, the bells quickly rung up, and once the service concluded, with the bell choir leading the way out of the church, the congregation was ready to hear the bells ring out. A band of the locals, with tutors standing protectively nearby, rang rounds, then a group of Boston ringers and visitors rang Grandsire Caters. In the rain. Another first for me. Two temporary walls (cleverly designed frames made of plastic sheeting) kept out most of the wind and rain, but the ringing room is still open to the elements, and it was damp, to say the least. Short backstroke lessons were offered to anybody who cared to try, and Ed again took charge, with a few people helping him to teach the long lines of backstroke learners, while others of us were inside at the reception, eating, chatting, and admiring the bell-shaped celebratory cakes.
The bells sound beautiful and go very well. The weather can present challenges, but it is a treat to ring there.