Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More on Westminster Chimes

The Westminster Quarters is the most common name for a melody used by a set of clock bells to chime on each quarter hour. The number of chime sets matches the number of quarter hours that have passed. It is also known as the Westminster Chimes, or the Cambridge Chimes from its place of origin, the church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge.
The melody consists of five different permutations of four pitches in the key of E major. The pitches are B3, E4, F4 and G4.

The permutations are:

    g4, f4, e4, b3
    e4, g4, f4, b3
    e4, f4, g4, e4
    g4, e4, f4, b3
    b3, f4, g4, e4

Played as three crotchets and a dotted minim. These permutations are always played in order, and each permutation is used twice every hour. Different quantities of permutations are played at each quarter-hour: one set at the first quarter, two sets at the half, and so forth, as follows:
First Quarter
  \relative c'' {\time 6/4 \key e \major gis4 fis e b2.|} 

Second Quarter (half hour)
  \relative c' {\time 6/4  \key e \major e4 gis fis b,2. | e4  fis gis e2.|}

Third Quarter
 \relative c'' {\time 6/4  \key e \major gis4 e fis b,2. | b4 fis' gis e2. | gis4 fis e b2.|}

Fourth Quarter (full hour) with hour chime (3 o’clock shown)
 \relative c' { {\time 6/4 \key e \major e4 gis fis b,2. | e4  fis gis e2. | gis4 e fis b,2. |  b4 fis' gis e2. } \new Staff {\clef bass  e,1.^"Big Ben"  | e1.| e1. |} }

This chime is traditionally, though without substantiation, believed to be a set of variations on the four notes that make up the fifth and sixth measures of "I know that my Redeemer liveth" from Handel's Messiah. This is why the chime is also played by the bells of the so-called 'Red Tower' in Halle, the native town of Handel. It was written in 1793 for a new clock in St Mary the Great, the University Church in Cambridge. There is some doubt over exactly who composed it: Rev Dr Joseph Jowett, Regius Professor of Civil Law, was given the job, but he was probably assisted by either Dr John Randall (1715–99), who was the Professor of Music from 1755, or his brilliant undergraduate pupil, William Crotch (1775-1847).

In the mid-19th century the chime was adopted by the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster (where Big Ben hangs), whence its fame spread. It is now possibly the most commonly used chime for striking clocks.

According to the church records of Trinity Episcopal Church (Williamsport, Pennsylvania), this chime sequence was incorporated into a tower clock mechanism by the E. Howard & Co., Boston, MA. The clock and chime in Trinity's steeple base was dedicated in December 1875. It holds the distinction of being the first tower clock in the United States to sound the Cambridge Quarters.
The lyric inscribed in the Big Ben clock room reads:

    All through this hour
    Lord, be my guide
    And by Thy power
    No foot shall slide.
The conventional lyrics for the tune are:
    O Lord our God
    Be Thou our guide
    That by thy help
    No foot may slide.
An alternative lyric changes the third line:
    O Lord our God
    Be Thou our guide
    So by Thy power
    No foot shall slide.
A variation on this, to the same tune, is sung at the end of a Brownie meeting in the UK and Canada:
    Oh Lord our God
    Thy children call
    Grant us Thy peace
    And bless us all.

1 comment:

  1. Love knowing this! I have two grandfather clocks, a grandmother clock and an old kitchen clock that is erratic so I don't wind the chimes. Just love my clocks and listening to them chime. Added a coo coo clock not too long ago. Oh the "Sound" of sweet music every fifteen minutes! :)


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