Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Request-a-Hymn: Bell Towers as Participants of Place, Part 2

Last week, the Request-A-Hymn project debuted(see previous post here). The evening turned the bell tower into a clanging, hymnal jukebox.

At the heart of the logistics were two walkie-talkies. I used one down on the sidewalk in front of the church and the other was used by Matt and Cindy (and later John and Paul) who sat up in the belfry next to the computer.

The weather was lovely, and I posted some balloons and a sandwich board explaining the project in front of the church.

Then, like a somewhat sedate barker, I invited people passing by to pick a hymn from a printed list of the 2,000 musical jpegs stored on the computer.

When they chose a hymn, I'd radio up and the bell person would find the song in the computer (see photo at right), and they'd program the stereo to play it right then. It was pretty efficient. There was probably a 30-second delay max between the request and the beginning of the ringing.

Some people were intrigued. Some smiled as they walked by. Some thought I was proselytizing and couldn't get away fast enough. A few asked a ton of questions and were way into the building and the bells.

By the end of the evening, I'd say between 25 and 30 people requested hymns. Many climbed the stairs, past the choir loft, to see the computer and belfry. We played everything from the 12 toll strikes of the funeral bells to Good King Wenceslas.

Two women from the senior citizen's home around the corner came and parked beneath the belfry for the evening. They requested their favorite hymns whenever there was a lull in the action. Apparently, they had read about it in the local paper. They were great.

Another man, an opera singer, found out about the event through the art festival and was the first to arrive. He knew a lot of the words to they hymns and kept our spirits buoyed through out the evening.

Jackie and Ted, friends and bikers.

Paul Palmateer, friend and greeter.

Jenny Roberts, friend and artist.

This family lives in the neighborhood. They visited the belfry with their two young children and requested the 12-strike funeral toll. The kids counted to be sure it was done right.

Overall, the evening unfolded, I think, nicely. I'm just sorry it took so long for me to post about it. Many thanks to commenter Michael Allen for the nudge. It has just dawned on me that there is likely a correlation between the shrinking number of posts as of late and the date my daughter began walking.


Jackie Zydeck said...

We really enjoyed the Requet a Hymn event. We have been much more aware of the sound of bells in our neighborhood this past week. It was fun to request a hymn and hear it played almost immediately. We wish there had been more cyclists in attendance.

Michael Allen said...

Glad to be of help. I just wish that I could have attended! getting to Chicago always seems to take forever. Hopefully we will be up there by summer's end...just in time for HOT weather.