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New Ring in Shreveport

by David H Graves

Over the past two weeks, Whitechapel bellhanger Neil Thomas has been in Shreveport installing the new ring of 8, tenor 9 cwt.

St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral is the see of the Diocese of Western Louisiana. It is a large gothic style building of tan brick with stone accents. The tower is modeled on Magdalen College, Oxford. Built in the 1950s, it was originally intended to house a 50 bell carillon. However, the organist-choirmaster at the time did not want an instrument he would have to play with his fists and said they should put in change ringing bells.

At times over the intervening years various schemes for bells came up, but never got very far. Then, several years ago, Candace and Edwin Higginbotham attended a practice at an English church. The ringers took great care of them, and when they returned to Shreveport they were determined to install a ring in the tower. After several years and the generosity of many in the congregation, they had raised enough for the bells and modifications to bring the tower up to code -- as well as a substantial amount that went to further the other missions of the cathedral.

As the bells and tower were being prepared, Shreveport ringers traveled to Little Rock, Texarkana, and Dallas for handling lesson organized by Scott Stricker, Remica Gray, and Jan Eppinette. So, by the time Neil arrived several were able to ring both strokes and get the bells up and down.

On December 18, ringers from Houston, Little Rock, and Dallas descended on the tower to teach handling and to demonstrate method ringing. Throughout the day, they worked with more than 20 learners at various stages from backstroke to rounds.

In the early afternoon, the Shreveport ringers invited the visitors to attempt a quarter peal. As the quarter of Plain Bob Minor progressed, it became clear that this is a superb ring. The bells go easily. And the sound! Rumor has it that this is the new Whitechapel profile -- and they are the best sounding Whitechapel bells I have ever heard.

Sound control is provided by insulated metal roll up doors, operated from inside the tower and opened for the quarter. Those outside reported that the bells sounded magnificent and carried for blocks. A local tv station did a short segment on ringing for their evening newscast.

Sunday morning, the six remaining visitors rang a nice service touch of Cambridge Surprise.

Shreveport has a large and enthusiastic band of learners for these superb bells. Visitors are assured of a warm welcome and wonderful ringing.

Posted Dec 21, 2009


Dianne S P CermakDec 21 2009, 3:18 pm

Hearty congratulations to all! We look forward to hearing these wonderful new bells. -- Dianne Cermak

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