Insights

Ever look up and wonder: what the bell? We do every day! We're here to bring you fascinating facts and curious clues to the world of campanology in the nation's capital, with musings on the bells, buildings, and people that make this city ring.

Georgetown, We Have a Rendering

There comes a time in every bell restoration project where we get to see a glimpse into the future. That time has come. As we continue our work to refurbish the historic bell at Georgetown Lutheran Church (located at the corner of Volta Pl. and Wisconsin Ave. NW in Washington, D.C.), our restoration partners at Sunderlin Bellfoundry have created a rendering of the final installation.

Campanology Word of the Day: Canon

There are many parts to a bell and each is given a name steeped in the craft of bellfounding and campanology. For instance, a bell has both a waist and a shoulder, a lip and a mouth. It’s even crowned with a…well, crown. But above the crown is that part of a bell by which it is suspended from a beam or truss: the canons.

So, You’re Not from 1780?

Historic bell restoration projects here at the National Bell Festival sometimes have us scrambling up dusty ladders in search of clues to a bell’s age or provenance, as if we were Nicolas Cage in National Treasure (with less dramatic intrigue). We love uncovering America’s history through the bells that hang above us or, in the case of the bell at Georgetown Lutheran Church, a bell that sat firmly on the ground.

Campanology Word of the Day: Plangent

A bell is a most expressive instrument. Dancing cascades of bells in a high bell tower can erupt into a merry peal to celebrate the day and lift the collective spirit. Or, quite the opposite, a single bell can toll with such plaintive resonance that it portends a painful melancholia and brooding sadness. The latter gives the feeling of the adjective: plangent. 

What Is Bronze?

Take a moment to think about cake. There is no product in the natural world called “cake” – we don’t pick cake from trees, nor do we find cakes roaming wild across the prairie. Instead, we mix a few ingredients together to create something that we think is tastier than its component parts – and those ingredients can be customized to make a great variety of cakes. If you want it sweeter, you add a little sugar. If you want it richer, you add chocolate.

We Just Dyed a Little

Some bells crack – particularly very old bells that have survived the worst harm that centuries, Civil War, and exposure to the elements may impart. Such is true for the bell at Georgetown Lutheran Church, which the National Bell Festival in collaboration with B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry is working to restore. 

Three New Bells Honor Three Spectacular People

The Netherlands Carillon, overlooking the City of Washington from its perch on a knoll beside Arlington National Cemetery, has been quiet of late. Every fifteen minutes, locals and visitors to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial had been accustomed to hearing familiar melodies and tunes played from on high. But late last year, the bells were removed for restoration. 

Campanology Word of the Day: Tocsin

Imagine a quiet, sleepy village. A gentle brook trickles near your cottage, a bird cheerfully chirps at your sill, and you’ve relaxed into your morning routine. Suddenly, a bell sounds out from the center of town, stirring you into alertness. You’d want to know what’s happening, right? You’d rush to the village church or town hall to learn what all the commotion is about. Thank goodness for the tocsin.

The Art of Change Ringing in the Age of Social Distancing

With Washington-area bell towers shuttered due to the threat from coronavirus, one wonders: what’s a bell ringer to do? Change ringing is a naturally social act. At Washington National Cathedral, for instance, a group of 10 ringers stand nearly shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle to practice their craft and attempt a peal on the thundering bells overhead. Even more ringers might be observing from the wings or waiting to sub-in on the next available rope. 

Why Don't I Hear the Bells?

A hush has fallen on the Washington area’s four change ringing towers as the novel coronavirus continues to disrupt our community. Normally, with less congestion and traffic in our city (as we have during the current stay-at-home order), the toll of a bell would carry easily across D.C. neighborhoods. But not now.

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