Sunday, May 18, 2003

Bells fill empty church tower

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Neighbors of Christ Church Cathedral have grown used to silence from the church's bell tower.

Jeff Mann and Phil Laughlin hoist a 1,990-pound F note bell, one of 14 new bells installed at Christ Church Cathedral.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
For reasons unknown, bells were never installed in the cathedral tower that looms above the Parish House, built in 1907 at Fourth and Sycamore streets downtown. So for years, the empty tower stood tall, proud and as silent as the sky.

That changed this weekend with the installation of 14 new bells, a nearly $300,000 project.

The bells were made by Cincinnati-based Verdin Co., a worldwide supplier of bells, carillons and clocks.

The cast bell chimes installed in the cathedral are the most common range, consisting of an octave and a fifth diatonically, plus low semitones. The chime allows the playing of simple music, such as hymns and simple harmonies.

A crane hoisted the 11,000 pounds of bronze to the top of the tower Saturday despite soggy weather. This week they will be tuned and fixed to clappers, which will allow the bells to be chimed from a console by the organ. Plexiglass will also be installed to keep the sound from overwhelming the neighborhood.

The bells project has been more than a year in the making. In early 2002, parishioner Janet Hauck suggested a way to correct the omission of bells from the tower.

"I've never understood why we would have a bell tower with no bells," said Hauck of Indian Hill, a church member for nearly 50 years.

Hauck established a committee that sought donations from area foundations and from the parish of almost 400 families.

The biggest bell - 1,990 pounds - was also the most expensive, $60,000. Smaller bells - ranging in weight from 116 pounds to 150 pounds - cost about $5,000 each.

One block of Fourth Street was closed Saturday afternoon for the bell raising.

"It's the most exciting thing I've ever seen," Hauck said, watching from under an umbrella as the rain-spotted figures were lifted skyward. "In a way, I'm sorry to see it come to an end."

The parish plans to introduce the bells to the community slowly - first chiming them during daylight hours, then increasing usage to acknowledge a funeral or commemorate a wedding.

Most importantly, the bells will signal church services, said the Very Rev. James A. Diamond, dean of the church.

"Bells have been a part of Christian worship for thousands of years as a way of calling people to worship," he said. "This is our way of extending a welcome not just to our parishioners, but to the city of Cincinnati to come and join us."

However, there will be nary a ding or a dong until the dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. June 8 with the Right Rev. Herbert Thompson Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.

The blessing of new bells by a bishop with holy water and chrism (a consecrated mixture of oil and balsam) is a tradition that can be traced to the eighth century.

Christ Church Cathedral, 318 E. Fourth St., was founded in 1817 and has been at its present location since 1835.


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