Unique Raleigh 'change ringers' practice rare centuries-old craft

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Unique Raleigh 'change ringers' practice rare centuries-old craft
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A total of about 50 places in North America practice change ringing. One of them is in Raleigh.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A unique group in downtown Raleigh is practicing the centuries-old craft of change ringing.

Change ringing is the traditional art of ringing a set of tower bells in an intricate series of patterns.

"In North America, it's unusual," explained Ed Futcher, a change ringer in Raleigh.

"There's about 50 places in North America and most of them are in churches," Futcher added.

Futcher is one of about 10 volunteer members of change ringers who play in the bell tower of Christ Church at the corner of Wilmington and Edenton streets in Raleigh.

Change ringing originated in the 17th century in England. It's called change ringing because the bells change order and there's even some math that goes into it.

Players ring the bells in a room above them. Because the bells swing full circle, each swing has to be precisely made so it strikes at the right time.

"You can't ring them very quickly," Futcher said. "Because they take a couple of seconds to turn over and we ring them and change so we don't ring tunes. We ring them in things that we call methods, which are mathematical permutations of the bells.

"What is difficult is that when you pull the rope, the bell sounds maybe a second and a half later. So, you have to be ringing by rhythm and by listening, as well as by looking."

In North Carolina, there are only two groups of change ringers. In Raleigh, the group plays Sunday mornings before service at Christ Church from 10:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. and they welcome visitors to learn and try change ringing.

The second group in N.C. plays at St. James in Hendersonville.