- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Ring out the old, ring in the new, and if you can’t be among the hearties who tug on the bells or play the carillon at Washington National Cathedral, the Old Post Office or Arlington National Cemetery this weekend, you can at least listen for the clamor. Here’s a schedule and a guide to resources.


New Year’s Eve

• The Old Post Office: 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Noon. The Washington Ringing Society will ring a quarter peal of the Congress Bells. The 1,260 changes will take about 50 minutes to complete.

• The Netherlands Carillon: North end of Arlington National Cemetery. 6 p.m. The 50-bell carillon was a gift from the Netherlands. It plays regular concerts daily at noon and 6 pm. On New Year’s Eve it will play “Auld Lang Syne.”

• Washington National Cathedral: Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues NW. 10:30 p.m. The society will ring a half-muffled quarter peal to mark the dying of the old year. Best spot for listeners: The Bishop’s Garden on the south side of the cathedral.

• Washington National Cathedral: Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues NW. Midnight. With muffles off, the society will toll the heaviest bell 12 times and then open it up to “general ringing” for about half an hour to welcome the new year. The Bishop’s Garden on the south side of the cathedral is still the best spot to hear these bells.

New Year’s Day

• Washington National Cathedral: Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues NW. 12:30-1:15 p.m. New Year’s Day and every Saturday. Carillon concert by cathedral carillonneur Edward M. Nassor. The cathedral’s central tower is the only place in North America to house both peal and carillon bells. The carillon, with 53 bronze bells, was dedicated in 1963. Mr. Nassor plays the instrument with a keyboard and pedals. The keyboard controls a mechanical tracker system that uses transmission wires to move the clappers while the bells remain stationary.

• Washington National Cathedral: Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues NW. 1:15-2:15 p.m. Every New Year’s Day the Washington Ringing Society attempts a full peal of more than 5,000 changes, which lasts about three hours. With several experienced ringers out of town this year, however, the group will ring a quarter peal. Best spot is still the Bishop’s Garden.


• The North American Guild of Change Ringers: An association of change ringers in the United States and Canada, formed in 1972. It seeks to maintain contact among ringers around the world, to improve standards of ringing and to foster public appreciation of change ringing. For further information, see www.nagcr.org.

• The Washington Ringing Society: Founded in 1964 as the Cathedral Ringing Society, this group of volunteers took its current name in 1984, shortly after the Congress Bells were installed at the Old Post Office and the group was asked to ring them.

The WRS rings at both locations for ceremonial and major national events and keeps a regular ringing schedule: at Washington National Cathedral Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. and for services every Sunday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.; at the Old Post Office Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m.

For further information on the society and on change ringing see www.cathedral .org/wrs. The animations on this site are fun and worth study. Prospective volunteers should contact Mary Clark by e-mail at [email protected]

• A Bellringer’s Progress: Notes on Learning to Ring: The on-line diary of novice ringer Simon Kershaw, tower captain at All Saints’ Church in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, England. www.thinking anglicans.org.uk/sjk-bells.

• “The Nine Tailors”: British writer Dorothy L. Sayers’ 1934 detective novel finds her debonair hero, Lord Peter Wimsey, marooned in the fen country of East Anglia on New Year’s Eve. He is recruited by the local rector to help ring in the new year with a nine-hour marathon peal of more than 15,000 changes. The novel’s framework, its clues and even its chapter headings derive from change-ringing patterns. Adapted for public television in 1975, with Ian Carmichael as Wimsey, its evocation of the romance of ringing has drawn untold numbers to the bells. Available through on-line booksellers and in bookstores.



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