The world's most famous chimes are the Westminster. Nearly everyone associates the Westminster chimes with the Victoria Clock Tower of the House of Parliament in London. Originally, however, they were fitted to the clock of the University Church, St. Mary's the Great, in Cambridge, England. The words to this beautiful chime come from Handel's symphony, "I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVETH" and could be our daily prayer: "Lord through this hour,/Be thou our guide/So, by Thy power/No foot shall slide."
The famous Whittington chime is derived from the Church of St. Mary's le Bow, in Cheapside, London. The legend is that Dick Whittington, running away from ill treatment as a house waif, seemed to hear the chimes say, "Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London Town". Dick turned back to eventually serve three terms as London's Lord Mayor.
History of the Chimes
St. Michael Chimes
Perhaps the St. Michael Chimes have more significance to the United States since their history is really a part of our heritage. The bells were cast in London and installed in St. Michael Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 1764. When the British took over the city during the Revolutionary War, the bells were taken back to England. A Charleston merchant bought them in England and shipped them home to America. In 1823, cracks were found in some of the bells and they were found to be returned to London once again, where the original molds still stood. In February 1867, the bells were once again installed in St. Michael Steeple and on March 21st joyously rang out, "Home again, home again from a foreign land".
Ave Maria Chimes
In the early 1500's, King James V banished the Douglas Clan to Scotland where Ellen Douglas lived in hiding. He did so because Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, had imprisoned the child king during the early days of his rein. In 1825 Franz Peter Schubert wrote Ellen's Song, which was a prayer for the safety for herself and her father as they hid in the forest.
This unusual tune is apparently also known as "Magdalene" or "Parsifal". But there is some confusion/debate over this. The graphic above is labeled as the "Parsifal" chime pattern though it does not match the Oxford/Magdalene recording... go figure. "Parsifal" was the final opera written by Richard Wagner and he apparently "borrowed" the tune from a German Abbey!
In 1913 the “Canterbury Chimes” was added to the Whittington and Westminster chimes on Herschede Hall Clocks. Some accounts we've read say tune was composed by Charles Eisen, "a gifted American pianist," especially for Frank Herschede, but the Herschede catalogue reads a little differently, stating that the tune was written by a factory employee who was visiting England... Who, knows, maybe Charles Eisen was an employee... and a gifted pianist!
The 6-bell Trinity chimes originate from London's Trinity church in Gough Square, destroyed in 1902. This chime sequence was extremely popular in Germany and the USA and adapted for clocks made in Germany by both the Peerless and Hamburg American (HAC) clock companies. Clocks with Trinity chimes were sold primarily on the German market. But many were exported to the U.S. to noted clock entrepreneur, Charles Jaques, who later negotiated exclusive rights to use the Trinity chimes in his tall case tubular bell clocks. Operating under the Bawo & Dotter label, the movements for Jacques were also made by Peerless. Bawo and Dotter private-labeled both tall case and mantle clock movements for retail sale in cases manufactured by a variety of companies, including the Royal Furniture Company of Grand Rapids. Some mantle clocks with the Trinity tune were also made by Peerless, stamped "BD" on the back plate, and sold in the US by Bawo & Dotter.
Winchester chimes have a very interesting history. The Norman conquerors of England did not like the fantastic cathedral chimes of the Saxons, so Bishop Walkelin, a kinsman of William the Conqueror, demolished and rebuilt the Winchester chimes in 1093. The cathedral's central tower that contained the chimes fell in 1107, but soon was rebuilt.
Beethoven's 9th Symphony Chimes
Ludwig Van Beethoven lived from 1770 to 1827. One of the greatest and most radical composers of all time. A tormented genius, who went deaf in later life and never hear his final works. His nine symphonies are probably his greatest achievement, each one an unrivaled masterpiece, but he also wrote 5 piano concertos, piano sonatas, string quartets and one opera, Fidelio composed in 1823, this famous melody comes from the final movement of Beethoven's "Choral" Symphony No.9 in d minor, Op.125. It is a setting for choir and orchestra of the German poet Schiller's 1785 poem An die Freude. The Ode to Joy was adopted as Europe's anthem by the Council of Europe in 1972. The first lines read:
Oh friends, no more of these sad tones!
Let us rather raise our voices together
In more pleasant and joyful tones. Joy!
Christians quickly recognize this tune as Hymn To Joy:
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of Glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.
Hevenu Shalom Aleichem Chimes
Traditional/familiar Israeli folk tune meaning "We brought peace to you" or "Peace be upon you". Shalom can also mean "hello", but in this context it means "peace". To our knowledge this tune exists only on a handful of clocks with a special Urgos tubular movement.
Information cited from Ridgeway Clocks manual