The Smith College Change Ringers—a group of faculty, staff, students and an alumna who execute the ringing of bells on special campus occasions—will host a change ringing workshop on campus on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14-15, in which participants will tour the bell tower and learn about the bells and how to perform. Ringers from towers at the Old North Church in Boston and Trinity Wall Street in New York will train participants in the art of change ringing.

The workshop is open to all in the Smith community; register online.

Meanwhile, Sarah Moriarty ’72, director of administrative technology in ITS, and leader of the Smith Change Ringers, contributed an article to The Clapper about rejuvenating the bell ringing group at Smith.

(Excerpted from The Clapper, the Journal of the North American Guild of Change Ringers, January 2014)

By Sarah Moriarty ’72

A bell hangs in the Mendenhall Center tower.

A bell hangs in the Mendenhall Center tower.

The bells in Mendenhall Tower were installed in 1968 due in large part to the enthusiasm of Alice Dickinson, and as her math student, I was in the first band of ringers. Recently returning to Smith as part of the ITS staff, I was disappointed to learn that the tower was no longer active. So this fall a project began with my husband, Tom. We are determined to have a band again!

The first step was to contact the Smith math department. Through Jim Henle, Ruth Haas, Marjorie Seneschal, David Cohen and Ben Baumer (all non-ringers), we are reconnecting with alumnae and local ringers in the Pioneer Valley. Smith started out with a strong program, led by Alice Dickinson and her students, including Marjorie Batchelor ’73 and Joan Hutchinson ’67. Joan continued the program as a faculty member in the Smith Math Department until 1990 when she moved to Macalester University. At that time, the ringing program became dormant until it was rejuvenated under the leadership of Michael Bush and Elizabeth Denne, who joined the Smith math department in 2007. They moved to Washington and Lee University in 2012, and the program again became dormant. Michael had been the primary ringing teacher, and Elizabeth’s work on the bellringing website was no longer accessible.

We preserved and republished the website and will be updating it in the coming months with new information. On campus, we established regular practice times and found that there is quite a bit of interest from staff and students. We have cleaned out the tower and inspected and performed minor maintenance (tightening bolts, adjusting stays, lubricating sliders, etc.).

But how can we learn to ring? We met Alan Durfee and Leland Paul Kramer, both experienced ringers, and we started practicing. It had been over 30 years since Alan Durfee taught new ringers, but he was willing to give it a try and has been tutoring us regularly. We are making progress, and now Alan is helping Leland, who was originally taught by Michael Bush, to become a tutor as well. Kate Lee and Erik Moore, ITS staff members and also novices, have helped by attending practices and chiming the bells for Smith events (since we are not able to ring yet.)

Alan and Leland are so patient working to build our skills. They ring up and down for each practice and we ring on two bells that are muffled. They started us on backstroke with help, then alone, then hand stroke alone, then combining the handstroke and catch, and just this month we are able to ring full circle. We are still having difficulty with bell control, but are making steady progress.

Other towers have been extremely helpful in getting us started. We found towers close by, and were able to visit Orleans, Mass., in September. Sr. Alicia Mitman and her group welcomed us to their afternoon practice with Neil Thomas of Whitechapel. We also were welcomed by Danielle and Ricky Morse and Dale (son of Marjorie Batchelor) at Old North Church in Boston and John Hitchings and Phil at Trinity Wall Street in New York.

We are appreciative of the support from alumnae, faculty, and members of the ringing community near and far. We invite students and interested staff to a Saturday workshop, February 15, and will use this occasion to begin expanding our band.