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No more secrets. I confess, I rang bells all weekend. A couple of times a year, the Kalamazoo College Guild of Change Ringers hosts a “Ringing Weekend,” and this is what went on:

We rang for two hours Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday until about 1 p.m. We rang rounds & call changes, plain hunt on 8, Plain Bob Major, Grandsire Triples, Stedman Triples, spliced Kalamazoo Treble Bob and Bristol Surprise Major, Glasgow Surprise Major, and 9-spliced Surprise Major. Some people rang handbells, and one person had her first rope-handling lesson.

We had visitors from Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Ontario, and the U.K. Most of them have visited us here before. Over 25 ringers participated in the weekend. A couple of visitors brought very patient non-ringing partners. The Brits had spent a week in Chicago before coming to Kalamazoo. In addition to doing touristy stuff, they attended a practice there. A couple from Toronto was going to Shipshewana, Indiana after the weekend to check out the Amish crafts.

A couple of people came because they’d heard about change ringing and wanted to learn more about it. One is a high school music teacher from suburban Indianapolis who found out about change ringing from a student’s paper and thought it sounded like the coolest thing. You can’t learn to ring a tower bell in a weekend, but even though she spent most of the time watching others, she was just as enthusiastic when she left on Sunday as she was when she arrived Friday evening. She commented that the culture of change ringing reminds her of that of shape note singing.  In both cases, people who share an uncommon hobby also have uncommonly strong bonds with one another, even with people they barely know. It’s always fun to be reunited with ringing friends and to meet new ringers, too.

Stetson Chapel

Stetson Chapel bell tower

There are only about 50 change ringing towers in North America, so almost everyone travels to ring at some point. Some ringers have no bell tower in their home towns, although one of our friends has a “mini-ring” of bells installed in the ceiling of his garage. This past weekend, as is typically the case, a few of the visitors stayed in local ringers’ homes.

We ate sandwiches and chips in the narthex of the chapel, and on Saturday we went out to dinner at the Panda Forest Chinese restaurant. Afterwards, some die-hards went back to the tower for more ringing, and others went to Bell’s Brewery. It’s a lucky coincidence that Kalamazoo’s original microbrewery (no longer micro) is named Bell’s.

The weather was beautiful on Saturday, and students were playing “Muggle Quidditch” on the Kalamazoo College campus. The younger ringers (we range in age from early-20s to mid-70s) know a lot more about Quidditch than I do, and some of them were commenting on the strategy of the snitch.

We talked about the Chinese zodiac and traveling to ring and beer. The English visitors were curious about American “gun culture,” which they hear about all the time in the media, and they wondered if we knew a lot of people who own guns.

On Sunday afternoon, I came home and collapsed. My limbs and joints were aching, so I took a hot bath. I was too tired to do anything else. I didn’t ring a quarter peal, but it was a good weekend. It was great to have a chance to try Glasgow, which I’d never rung before, and although it has been years since we last rang Kalamazoo Major, it came back to me pretty easily.

Glasgow blueline

Glasgow Surprise Major

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