Now in our active listening series, we’ll focus on larger bells in a tower. This includes bells in a steeple that are played by people pulling on ropes, as well as carrillon bells played by a keyboard device.
A tower bell is a LARGE metal bell which is hung in a tall tower, often a church steeple, attached to a large gear which has a rope around it. This rope hangs down to another floor where the bell ringer pulls the rope to sound the bell at specific times. These are VERY LOUD, and the vibrations can be felt even outside the building.
Children may have seen the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in which the main character pushes the bells around himself (a purely fictional scene).
This could be as simple as ONE bell in a tower, typically in the heart of a village or city, to signify the hour, such as Big Ben in London. This was how people used to keep track of time, to gather the village, or to sound an alarm.
These tower bells were also used in churches to signal the time for worshippers to go to church, perhaps to attend a wedding or other service.
In many towers there are several bells of different sizes, and the bell ringing has developed into an art, called Campanology. Because of the huge swing of the bells, the composer who writes the music must also be an excellent mathematician in order to time the bells correctly.
In this video, Julie Andrews sings “Ding Dong, Merrily On High” in the background while we watch the ART of bellringing.
There is a Catholic church near my home, and I hear the bells played every Sunday morning, as well as other times during the week. In Lakeland, the Episcopal church downtown plays their bells almost daily, and they have wonderful concerts. Take a Sunday morning drive with your child to hear the sounds of bells in your local churches (they get up early anyways). If your church has bells, perhaps you can find a person that can give a tour. And during the holiday season, you may be able to find a performance that fits into your schedule.
The Carillon is like tower bells DELUXE ! The tower houses at LEAST 23 bells. Instead of gears and ropes, the bells are connected to a mechanical device that allows one person, the carillonneur, to play all of the bells from a device that looks like a keyboard (similar to a piano).
This video features the carillon bells at our own Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL. It is an introductory video by the Associated Press, so it discussed the whole concept of Bok Tower Gardens. The part that shows the bells and how they are played is between, 1:00 and 1:45, but you can hear the bells being played throughout the video.
If you live nearby, or plan to visit nearby, Bok Tower Gardens is worth your trip – Even WITH children. The gardens, and the music from the bells, is a bit of peace for the soul in this crazy world. If not here, look around, there may be a carillon closer to your family.