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The Various Clock Chimes

The chimes and their origins.

Westminster Chimes
The Westminster chimes are the same notes first used on the clock in the University Church tower of St. Mary, Cambridge, England, and in 1859, selected for the Victoria Clock Tower in the House of Parliament in London. There, the hour is still struck on the famous old bell, ” Big Ben”, after the four famous phrases have been played on the smaller bells. The music was inspired by a phrase from Handel’s symphony,” I Know That My Redeemer Liveth”, and the words and music were arranged by Wm. Crotch in 1793.

Lord through this hour,
Be Thou our guide
So, by Thy power
No foot shall slide.

Whittington Chimes
The legendary Whittington Chimes rang in the Church of St. Mary Le Bow in Cheapside, London in the 16th Century. One day, the penniless boy, Dick Whittington heard them as he ran away to escape his drudgery as an ill-treated house boy. The chimes seemed to say to him “Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London Town!” So, back he went and persisted in his labors until he finally did become Lord Mayor of London.

St. Michael Chimes
A true story of adventure surrounds St. Michael’s Chimes. The bells, cast in London, were installed in the St. Michael Church steeple in Charleston, S.C. in 1764. During the Revolutionary War, the British took the bells back to England. After the war, a Charleston merchant bought them and sent them back to America. In 1823, when cracks were discovered in them , they were sent back to London to be recast.

In 1862, during the Charleston siege, they were moved to Columbia, S.C. for safe keeping, but Sherman’s army set fire to the area, and nothing but fragments of the bells remained. These were sent back to London once more, where the original molds still stood, and again, recast. In February 1867, the eight bells were reinstated in the St. Michael steeple, and on March 21st they rang out joyously, seeming to say: “Home again, home again, from a foreign land!” There was a great rejoicing by the entire city as the bells rang out. Since then, they have endured a cyclone, earthquake and fire unharmed.

Ave Maria Chimes
In the early 1500’s. King James V banished the Douglas Clan to Scotland where Ellen Douglas lived in hiding. He did so because Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus had imprisoned the child king during the early days of his rein. In 1825 Franz Peter Schubert wrote Ellen’s Song, which was a prayer for the safety for herself and her father as they hid in the forest. There are several versions of the Ave Maria song written by Charles Gounod, J. Stone, Franz Liszt, Biebel, and Schubert with the most popular being those of Liszt and Schubert.


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