Change Ringing: St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

Queen Elizabeth I described it as “the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England.” 

This Christmas Eve we go to the over 900-year-old St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, UK to hear a spectacular example of English change ringing. The church’s fifteen bells are ordered in a series of seemingly-endless mathematical permutations, known as “changes.” This clip will give you an idea of the precision required in this type of bell ringing.

With today’s post, we remember the late German-American musicologist Karl Haas and his nationally syndicated radio program, Adventures in Good Music. Each year on Christmas Eve, Haas offered an episode entitled, The Story of the Bells. I remember his enthusiastic description of the bells of Zurich, Switzerland: “It’s an awesome sound…A sound which leaves no room for human voices…”

Grandsire Caters is a method of change ringing, originating around 1650, which features a peal of ten bells:

Double Norwich Court Bob Major involves eight bells. It was first heard on March 9, 1741 at Norwich’s St Michael and All Angels Coslany:

Elgar: Imperial March, Op. 32

Now, let’s venture into the Gothic grandeur of St. Mary Redcliffe to hear the spectacular organ, made by Harrison & Harrison in 1911 and restored in 1990. Here is Anthony Hammond’s performance of Sir Edward Elgar’s Imperial March, Op. 32, originally scored for orchestra in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897:

Recordings

  • Change Ringing from St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol Nimbus Records
  • Sir Edward Elgar: Music for Organ / Organ of St. Mary, Redcliffe, Bristol Amazon
  • Adventures in Good Music: The Story of the Bells Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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