Archive for Thursday, July 6, 2006

Technicians finish repairs to Big Ben

July 6, 2006

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— Big Ben's chimes are back.

The melodic quarter-hour chimes that precede the famous bonging of the 13-ton Big Ben bell have been silenced by repairs since early June.

On Wednesday, technicians fitted two new hammers to the largest of the four bells that have marked the quarter hours from parliament's clock tower since 1859.

The Westminster chime tune, said to be based on two measures from Handel's "The Messiah," was composed originally for the bells of Great St. Mary's Church in Cambridge, where a new clock was installed in 1793. The identity of the composer is uncertain, though the leading suspect is William Crotch, a child prodigy who was an assistant organist at King's College in the city.

The characteristic sound is closely identified with England. A live broadcast of the 6 o'clock chimes precedes the British Broadcasting Corp. radio's early evening news bulletin. For the past month, the broadcaster has been forced to replace the sound with birdsong.

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