It seemed like a stunt. But this was last night on BBC4, jewel in the corporation’s crown, and it was far more than that.
Charles Hazlewood, an orchestral conductor wondered if the sound of bells from two or more church towers could be combined for pleasure. He found three churches near Cambridge centre, checked the bells’ varying pitch, and saw that church bells don’t do tunes but are simply rung in changing sequences.
One church tower could do the first five notes of that beautiful and essentially English tune, Greensleeves. Using CCTV to link his signals to the three towers of bell ringers he let loose - to an appreciative crowd in the central square - first a stirring combination of changes to which all the towers contributed, then had the one tower repeat its “mini-Greensleeves” twice, switched to thirty hand bell-ringers in the square who did the tune properly, and ended with a “chord fest” from the towers.
It worked! I am not normally a bells enthusiast but this was music. It comes in many forms.
Pic: Great St Mary’s Church, one of the towers used.
CLASSICAL OUT? I appreciated everyone’s attempts to replace the detestable and elitist word “classical” applied to music. One or two conclusions. The replacement cannot be definitive (any more than classical is) otherwise it would have been already discovered. It must therefore be a label that carries some plausible overtones. It must not imply “classical” music is superior to any other form. A friend of mine suggested “straight”, which might distinguish such music from jazz and pop. Sir Hugh’s “posh” might work if it were knowingly ironic. “Mozart music” might limit the scope and be confusing. I will return.