The bells rang out from the tower of Knox Metroploitan United Church much more than normal on Feb. 18. That’s because it wasn’t a normal Monday for Carol Benesh. She spent Family Day marking her graduation, from apprentice to bell ringer.
To mark the occasion, she decided to ring the bells every 15 minutes, from 10 a.m. until midnight.
“When you’re up here playing the bells it’s very spiritual. You’re becoming one with the music, you’ve got that heavy vibration that just goes right through you,” Benesh said.
“You’re dancing with the ropes when you’re inside the circle.”
Benesh began her journey outside the circle of 12 ropes in 1996, when her kids began learning.
“I was just here being a mom, supporting them, when my friend Wayne Tunison said we could use a hand,” Benesh said. “When you’re running the circle you have to make sure that song is 100 per cent so you have to play all the holes, and he said I could use a hand if you could play this hole here.”
Soon after, Benesh began to learn the instrument herself. All apprentices start playing a single note. After learning to play the four beginner songs, more notes and ropes are added.
Benesh said the typical apprenticeship last for two years, practicing every weekend. She never set out to be a bell ringer, happy to play with her kids and teach others about the bells.
“Doing the bells was always something I did with the kids or for somebody else. So it wasn’t more for myself,” she said.
Benesh said that she’s starting to move a bit slower herself, and can use a hand with certain songs. Both her daughters know how to run the circle, and her grandchildren are beginning to learn too, especially her granddaughter.
“She’s key on it. She looks at the music, she’s grabbing the bells, she’s singing the songs, she’s paying attention and focused on it. She’s seven and that’s the perfect age to start,” Beneseh said.
“My grandson is four and he can play, when I point at him, but melts down if something isn’t right – if I touched his bell and it was his turn,” she continued with a laugh.