Monday, November 17, 2014

Westminster Quarters

Bells are an underappreciated instrument. I was thinking today about one of the most famous tunes in the world, a tune particularly for bells, known as 'Westminster Quarters', or, at times, 'Cambridge Chimes'. It's a tune you've certainly heard:

As near as anyone can determine, they were first composed for the bells of the Church of St. Mary the Great, which is the University church for the University of Cambridge. Nobody knows who, precisely, composed it, but the person most associated with it is the composer William Crotch, who seems to be the person who recommended the tune to the authorities. However, the chimes became world-famous when they were selected for the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster (whose largest bell, used to strike the hour, is itself world-renowned under the name 'Big Ben'). Thence it became the most common clock chime in the world.

Apparently the tune has common lyrics associated with it, although with lots of variations:

All through this hour,
Lord, be my guide,
And by Thy power
No foot shall slide.


  1. MrsDarwin4:39 PM

    I hear this tune daily, not because we have a grandfather clock, but because my doorbell chimes the first two lines. At first it was hard not to complete the tune mentally, but now I'm resigned to it always being half-past when someone comes to the door. I don't remember ever having sung words to it, though perhaps that's because the tune never really made the jump to Catholic hymnals. I'm told that some Brownies used to sing it at Girl Scout meetings, but by the time I was a GS, there was neither all that much religion nor much singing at meetings.

  2. Itinérante4:39 AM

    I do agree bells are underappreciated. There is something really charming about them!

  3. branemrys12:58 PM

    I think I've heard of the Brownies version, come to think of it; although I was surprised to learn that there were lyrics. I suppose if it's the kind of tune people constantly hear there will inevitably be some kind of lyrics.


Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.