Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Large Bells Chime Concert in Nashua, NH, June 15, 2012

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      Carolyn Whitlock

      Nashua’s First Church to hold outdoor chime concert
      By TERESA SANTOSKI Staff Writer

      IF YOU GO

      Outdoor chime concert by Gerald Martindale

      WHEN: 10:15 a.m. Sunday, July 15.

      WHERE: The First Church, 1 Concord St., Nashua.

      COST: Free.

      MORE INFORMATION: The concert will be held rain or shine. Outdoor seating will be provided and light refreshments will be served. For details, visit http://www.firstchurchnashua.org or call 882-4861.

      As little Zuzu told us in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

      Every time the chime rings at The First Church on Concord Street, someone is getting a workout.

      “This is the smallest gym in Nashua,” Joseph Olefirowicz, the church’s minister of music and artistic director of the First Music Concert Series, said of the chime playing room.

      The Mary Park Nutt Memorial Tower Chime consists of 15 bells, ranging in weight from 300 pounds to 2.8 tons, which are hung in the church’s tower. The bells are connected to a wooden clavier, or keyboard, in a room one story above the church’s main entrance.

      Instead of keys, the clavier has 15 wooden batons, also referred to as plow handles. Each baton is connected to a bell, which plays a single note.

      The chime is played the same way today as when the instrument was dedicated in 1894. The player stands in front of the clavier, grasps the baton associated with the bell he or she wants to ring, and pushes it down with all of his or her might, a process that is repeated at considerable speed in order to play a song.

      The Mary Park Nutt Memorial Tower Chime is played for 10 minutes each Sunday prior to the church service by half a dozen dedicated – and very energetic – volunteers.

      On Sunday, July 15, however, church-goers and the general public alike are invited to gather outdoors behind The First Church for an unusual musical treat.

      Gerald Martindale, carillonneur of the historic Metropolitan United Church of Toronto, Canada, will give a performance on the chime beginning at 10:15 a.m. as part of his 15th annual concert tour of the United States.

      According to Olefirowicz, this will be the first public chime concert since the chime was renovated and rededicated in the early to mid ’90s.

      The concert is likely to be heard within a wide radius of the church and is scheduled to last 30-40 minutes.

      “The sheer physicality doesn’t allow the program to go on too long,” Olefirowicz said, “because the player will get tired.”

      Martindale plays both carillon and chime, as well as organ and piano. Though carillon and chime are both bell-based instruments, there are some distinct differences.

      A carillon, Olefirowicz explained, has many more bells than does a chime, encompassing a full chromatic octave – black keys as well as white keys, in piano terms – or even multiple octaves.

      In addition to a keyboard, a carillon has a pedal board, so a carillonneur must sit down to play.

      The manner of playing the keyboard is also different.

      “A carillon has small narrow batons that you strike with your fist,” Martindale said.

      If a chime player attempted to strike the chime batons with his or her fists, he or she might very well break a hand.

      For an uninitiated player, it may take two hands to push down the baton attached to the heaviest bell of the Mary Park Nutt Memorial Tower Chime.

      The greater physical demands of the chime fail to faze a seasoned professional like Martindale, who explained that the difficulty of playing chime or carillon depends on how heavy the bells are.

      “I play heavy carillon in Toronto, so I have a heavy touch,” he said, which makes it easier for him to play a chime like the one at The First Church.

      Though strength and speed are required to play both instruments, a chime has a smaller number of bells and thus a smaller number of notes than a carillon.

      “Chimes are designed on a specific set of major scales, one or two, because it saves space and money,” Olefirowicz said, noting that chimes are based on the number of bells that are available to fit in the designated space.

      Before the Mary Park Nutt Memorial Tower Chime arrived in Nashua, it hung in the tower of Machinery Hall at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Designed by the Vanduzen Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, the chime originally had 10 bells, encompassing C to high E on the C major scale.

      Mary Park Nutt negotiated to purchase the bells for The First Church, where she was a member, while they were still hanging at the exposition.

      Five additional bells were cast by the Tift Company, extending the range of the chime to an octave and a half, and expanding the musical possibilities for the instrument.

      As is the case with many chimes, the Mary Park Nutt Memorial Tower Chime is primarily used to play hymns and other music for church services.

      Martindale aims to introduce listeners to a wider repertoire of chime music through his program selections, which will include compositions expressly for the chime, popular songs, folks songs and classical pieces, as well as hymns.

      Many of the songs were arranged by Martindale, and he adapted all of them to fit the notes available in the Mary Park Nutt Memorial Tower Chime.

      “If I’m playing for a chime, I have to know the range of the keyboard and what black keys are missing,” he said, explaining that chime music is very instrument-specific.

      Carillon music, in contrast, is somewhat more standardized, as the instrument comes in small, medium and large sizes.

      Opportunities to perform on chimes like that at The First Church are becoming increasingly rare, as some churches and other institutions that have chimes are switching from mechanical systems to electronic ones.

      A mechanical system, like the Mary Park Nutt Memorial Tower Chime, requires a human being to play it, Olefirowicz explained. In an electronic system, the bells are usually sounded by playing an electronic keyboard and can also be set to play automatically.

      The latter system requires less in terms of annual maintenance, Olefirowicz said, which, for some churches, can be a temptation to switch.

      This may not be the best option in the long term.

      “The electronic technology suffers under the weather elements more quickly,” Olefirowicz said. “When something is mechanical, there’s actually more of a longevity possible.”

      Switching to an electronic system can also alter the chime’s sound.

      “The volume of sound of each bell is exactly the same,” Martindale said. With a mechanical system, “the harder you strike the baton, the louder the sound from the bell. That’s not possible at all if you’re playing from an electric keyboard.”

      “You wouldn’t want to listen to an entire concert” played on an electronic system, he said. “It would sound very monotonous.”

      Olefirowicz agreed that having a human touch involved makes all the difference.

      “There is something very old school about a mechanical chime, and I think that’s the endearing part of why a mechanical chime is so special,” he said, “because there is that human element doing a great amount of physical labor to keep the music going.”

      Thanks to the church’s interest in preserving its musical heritage, the chime will likely continue in its present mechanical condition for many years to come.

      “It’s very fortunate that this church community is honoring the memory of Mary Park Nutt by keeping her vision for the church,” Olefirowicz said. “A hundred years later, we’re still listening to the fruits of her labor.”

      Teresa Santoski can be reached at 594-6466 or tsantoski@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Santoski on Twitter (@Telegraph_TS).

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