AllChimes.org ..... All Tower Bells
..... Chimes our specialty.
HOW LITTLE YOU KNOW
My father had played the 1923 Clinton Meneely 12-bell chime at St. Patricks' Church in Troy, NY. in the 1940-1955 time frame. The foundries were active then, and no thought was ever given to saving records. He said I would make mistakes, and I never got to play it then. He was right. I came back to Troy around 1992, cleaned the tower, fixed, made playing mistakes, expanded the repertoire and played it thru 2010, when the church closed.
Little did I know that this was the beginning of a gift that would last a lifetime, hopefully beyond.
Meanwhile, I became acquainted with Father Tomas Kelly, Pauline Ienco, Gene Burns, Ed Kehn and Andy Mace, whom were all instrumental in various ways that made ALLCHIMES happen.
Later on, there were more who made a profound impact: Carl Zimmerman, Rob Milliken, Bob Verdin, Doug Gefvert, Bruce Schultz, Rick Watson, Ken Neill, Tom Carroll, Jess Brodnax, Lisa Lonie, Tom Savoy and others,
My mother, Arthea Baker Davis Connors, did some writing and had an uncanny knack of saving local historical newspaper clippings of local area postcard worthy places, people and events. Tidbits gleaned from this hoard, such as the totally bell-unrelated Meneely foundry south of Albany and Ed Kehn were also invaluable.
My first chime visit was in 1993, when I videotaped the 1870 Andrew Meneely West Troy 9-bell chime at Ascension Episcopal Church in Troy. I was clueless when asked what I would do with this info. I became fascinated with it all, and finding little information anywhere, eventually visited over 300 chime towers and devoured every morsel of written information I could find. Had no idea of what to expect. Each morsel fit into a larger puzzle.
There were 5 more chime sets in Troy, so I proceded to videtape and play them all. Some were in sad shape, so, in memory of my father, I vowed to restore and maintain them, which I did. Sadly, four of them are now closed, a troubling phenomena, causing a real need for cradle-to-grave history.
Fully 2/3 of the bells in America were founded in Troy, NY. I was welcomed by most everyone to pour over and copy records that were in their possession. Ed Kehn's family gifted me with a daybook of most Clinton Meneely sales. Over 9,000 entries were incredibly and accurately transcribed by Jess Brodnax at the Gateway in South Troy, using an EXCEL pattern set up by Tom Carroll, the Gateway Executive Director. Jess still enters bells since found that are not in the book.
I showed up unannounced at the doorsteps of most chime locations, and before they could think of the obvious reason of insurance liability to reject me, they welcomed me. Perhaps they were stunned out of the blue by someone that cracked who would want to do such a thing. Have video or pictures of almost every visit. Also a lot of church bulletins and copies of their bell transactions and bell history. These will hopefully end up at the Watervliet, NY library, which stands on the footprint of the old Hanks and Andrew Meneely foundry in Gibbonsville/West Troy/Watervliet.
Chimers are a pretty resourceful group. Sometimes, with little guidance, they figure out how to play hymns and tunes on their bells. They use conventional music notation or letters or numbers lined up like a poem on their music sheets. They use pump/plow handles, batons, ropes or keyboards, all doing it differently, but at least doing it!!!
As time went on they asked questions, I needed to accumulate answers. So part of my bell education included minor manual chime maintenance, removing and installing a chime (my own), and never purposely impinging on those doing it for a living.
Joined the GCNA, (Guild of Carilloneurs of North America) the only bell group I knew of.
Joined the NAWCC, (North American Watch and Clock Collectors) so that I wouldn't mess up a tower clock. (call it preventive maintenance).
I gained the trust of the movers and shakers in the business. Sometimes working as a gofer, just to see how things were done. One might do something differently from another, but these guys all know their stuff!!!
. Having a computer programmer/systems background, I still use a 1986 dBase program to enter the locations and existing comments about every known tower chime location in North America. Ed Kehn and Carl Zimmerman gave me enormous amounts of unpublished information that I entered. From personal tower visits, honest visual info was added or updated. Promised people back in 2001 that I would put it all on a web site. Went to a computer course about the Front Page program and finally got it started in 2003. The topics of info on the web site unexpectedly mushroomed far beyond my original expectations, bringing major changes in 2011.
. Raw Tower Bell (single and multiple) information, problems, repairs and so much more.
. Foundries and where they are (or were).
. Basic understanding of North American Tower Bells - that tubular tower bells were part of the picture
. Music and music notation. American chimes were also meant to play tunes.
Then came 2012 and the realization that there were MANY sites and literature out there to help anyone bell disposed to find out worldwide information. This became a big addition to ALLCHIMES.org.
The Accidental Chime Historian evolved as the answer to the question I was so clueless about at Ascension in 1993.
ALLCHIMES.ORG was then subconsciously, but logically born from my tower visits and computer background.
Having met so many dedicated chimers, the founding of a viable Tower Chimers Organization remains.
With changes of tower management happening so rapidly, after my demise, I hope that someone will pick up on and maintain records for future generations to access.
Joe Connors - January 2012