It's lucky number 7 as St James Dallas makes its debut in the 25th 7-Towers Festival
Even though the first three bells at St. James were hung in 1995 and the second three in 2003 to make a light ring of 6 in the key of C, most people shied away from ringing at St. James. The reason was a 30 ft vertical steel ladder that was the only access to the ringing room. This ladder became history back in 2011 when a proper staircase was installed. Our rector dubbed the new staircase as "the stairway to heaven".
With much improved access to the ringing room, St James became the 7th church to join the South-Southwest region Low Sunday ringing festival rotation this Spring. We really appreciate the help and advice received from other towers as we planned our version of the festival. Planning started back last September when Carol Burris, our Dallas Parks rep in the band, insisted that we hold the dinner at a scruffy looking little cabin on White Rock Lake called "The Big Thicket". When we went to inspect the cabin, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, we were delighted by its simple rustic style.
The evening before the festival ringing course began, Allen Nunley, Bruce & Eileen Butler, Bob & Marty Aldinger, and Baucum Matthews joined us for our Wednesday evening practice. The ringing that ensued was quite a change from our usual hunt on three. The next day, the Allen, Bob, Dawn Uebelhart, and Bruce went to work as instructors in the ringing course. They had quite a challenge as the skill level of the students ranged from correcting handling problems to ringing Cambridge Surprise Minor! The group of students and helpers grew throughout the day as more people arrived. Dinner at the reasonably priced Cedars, a mediterranean grill, was a big hit. Afterwards a small group rushed back to St. James to attempt a quarter peal of Cambridge. Ringing finished with a rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on the bells; quite the handling challenge!
Usually a few hiccups occur in every festival and ours was no exception. Our hiccup was the fraying of the 6-bell rope during the course. While we went in search of a replacement rope, Bob and Bruce knotted and taped the rope in effort to keep the six bell ringable. Since Shreveport didn't have any spare ropes and all of the Houston ringers were already in Dallas, a desperate plea for a spare rope was sent to Little Rock. Fortunately, Porter Brownlee checked his phone messages before he left Little Rock and arrived in Dallas with not only one, but two bell-ropes! After a great Tex-Mex dinner at the Blue Mesa on Friday evening (no, Phillip was not playing with his food!), John Owen accompanied us back to the tower, pronounced our old 6-bell rope rotten, and helped us install one of the spare ropes from Little Rock.
Ringing during the weekend included rounds and call changes, Plain Hunt, Plain Bob, Grandsire, Kent and Oxford, Single Oxford, Double Oxford, various surprise minor methods, and attempts at splicing methods. Original Minor provided a challenge for conductors who hadn't called, or in most cases, rung it before. Besides ringing at St James, there were a few activities outside the tower that people enjoyed. On Friday a group including Meredith Morris, Tom & Barbara Miller, Bruce & Eileen Butler, Allen Nunley and Porter Brownlee made the three-hour trek Abilene to ring the bells at the Church of the Heavenly Rest. Jan Eppinette conveyed the group to Abilene in the St James van. On Saturday we offered two different diversions: Carol Burris' Art & Architecture tour and a tour of the Deep Ellum brewery, both in downtown Dallas. A couple other ringers were enticed out of the tower by the beautiful Spring weather and nearby Dallas Arboretum.
This year's festival striking competition was complicated by the presence of only four ringers from Little Rock and five ringers from Houston. After some discussion, it was decided to have a "Texas vs. the World" competition, the world being a Louisiana band and a combined Arkansas/Louisiana band. Test pieces were duly rung and judged by John Owen, who managed to enjoy the brewery and get back in time to judge the ringing. After that, visiting ringers headed back to their hotels to change, and local ringers scurried to The Big Thicket to set up for the Festival Dinner.
Dinner was provided by St. James parish cooks par excellence Wayne Theus and Gene Bolland, who produced a several course dinner that consisted flavored potato chips from Mackies of Scotland for appetizers followed by Green Salad with Bleu Cheese dressing, a spicy Shrimp Remoulade, Pork Loin with Marsala and Mushroom sauce, and Strawberries with Pound Cake. Chardonnay wine and a large selection of beer accompanied the meal. Meredith Morris was recognized for her unwavering support of the festival and John Owen announced that the Texas band had squeaked by the Arkansas/Louisiana band to win the striking competition.
The next morning St James parishioners enjoyed the treat of hearing their tower bells ringing after both services. Photos and media coverage of the blessing and hanging of the first three bells were provided in the parish hall by Edith Smith, who with her late husband Gean donated one of the first three bells. After a brunch provided by Jan Eppinette, people began heading home and this year's festival came to a close. The end of the festival coincided with the beginning of a peal tour arranged by Ross Finbow. Their tour got off to a good start with a successful peal of mixed methods minor. It was wonderful to see so many folks at our first festival, and we would like to thank all those who taught in the course and helped during the ringing sessions. We look forward to playing host again! Next year's festival is scheduled to take place in Texarkana. Hope to see y'all there!
TwinkleTwinkleLittleStar, Rotten Rope: Linda Rankin
Philip's dinner at Blue Mesa: Bob Aldinger
Porter recognizing Meredith for her support: Jim Fletcher
John delivering the verdict, Winning band: Tom Miller