Sunday, 5 September 2010

Through a local lens No. 4

Middle ground, right of centre (unlike local politics) is the Olargues village bell tower. It's the only part still standing of the 12th century hilltop castle that dominated this section of our valley. There's a long term project on the go to excavate and restore the original castle, but I think the restorers are on a hiding to nothing: as soon as the sort of local feudalism that expressed itself in fortified hilltops began to decline and the castle began to fall into disrepair, villagers helped the process along, and themselves into the bargain, by pilfering all the good building stone. To recover the original stone would mean dismantling half the village houses, and local politics would swing even further to the left.

The tower - the pyramid top is a later addition - was once part of the castle chapel. When a new church was built lower down the slope in the 17th century, they retained the tower and put a couple of bells in it. They're now operated electrically from inside the church.

One bell rings the hours - twice over, in you case you missed it the first time - and the other rings the Angelus. The Angelus, so-called from the first line of a late mediaeval hymn about the Annunciation, Angelus ad virginem, is a call to prayer. It rings a little after 7am, midday and 7pm. Who pays any attention to it I know not, nor do I know what the pattern of rings refers to: 3 sets of 3 slow strokes, followed by 15 quicker ones.

A few weeks ago the Hoboken Trio (violin, cello and piano) gave a couple of concerts locally. One of the spin-offs from their visit was that I should write some music for them. Bit of an honour, really, considering how good they are: the video below shows them in some lively Haydn with added accordion.

Saskia (violin) wanted 'plenty of Olargues' in it. It's a place she's very fond of. I started composing a few days ago. Searching about for Olarguisms to stir into the mix, I thought of the Angelus. You can't play much of a tune on one bell, but I could use the rhythm, 3 x 3 + 15. Here's the opening. If the wind blows at Angelus time, the sound comes (forte) or goes (piano) as the wind carries it towards us or away from us, so there's plenty of dynamic variety.

etc., etc.


Charlene said...

I've never lived close enough to a church that rang bells. In America the churches play recordings of bells! Though your tower is the remant of larger building and the stones of the castle now reside in the walls of residences, it's logical; matter neveer disappears!

mig said...

I hope whoever transcribed the accordion part left plenty of rests at the page turn!

How inventive, the bells. We have a local chapel where bell ringing is practiced occasionally. However, you'd be hard put to it to gather a rhythm from the results. They're a bit jazzy sometimes.

dinahmow said...

I shall have a crack at picking it out on my little keyboard.I don't think it will be allegro con brio!

Rog said...

I always thought Angelus derived from the practice of inserting "gel" into "anus".
That's what my choir master told me anyway...

Sarah said...

LOL Rog....

Fab view C, lucky you. I am afraid I can't comment on the music score, all gobbledegook to me. Wish it wasn't.

Think the Romans did the same with Greek temples..pinched the stone I mean.

Dave said...

My church in Sheringham had speakers outside, and played a tape of bells on Sunday mornings.

Z said...

We've only got three bells at our church, which doesn't give ringers much scope.

At my RC convent school, the Angelus was rung at 12 noon by one of the pupils, who was supposed to say a Hail Mary to herself between each set of 3 slow rings and another before the final long clanging - that is, 3 times in all.

Christopher said...

Charlene: Hi. If only your theory of the Indestructibility of Matter applied to waistlines!

Mig: I know what you mean. Bellringers pulling at slightly irregular intervals, or some being over-eager to get their two-penn'orth in or too dozy to realise it's their turn. Could be interesting rhythmically.

DM: You'll need massive hands, and probably your nose as well!

Rog: Please don't imagine the previous comment is in any way connected with yours.

Sah: You'll have Dave and Z counting the bricks in their walls.

Dave: There's a peal called Grandsire, I believe. Very suitable for those of us with our new status. Incidentally, have you noticed any very great increase in respectful deference in view of this paid to us by our blogpals? No, neither have I.

Z: This is the first time in my experience that anyone has been able to attach any meaning (I make no mention of Mr. Rudesby at No.4) to the Angelus. Thank you.

Hector said...

"villagers helped the process along, and themselves into the bargain, by pilfering all the good building stone."

Must take a good look at that wall you're building!!!!

Christopher said...

I can vouch for the source of every one of my stones, Hector. Every one came out of the ground originally.