25 Jan 2013
Under the direction of the Cathedral's Bell Captain, Kathi Downs St Mary's volunteer bell ringers will not only be ringing the bells on Saturday, 26 January but will play host to the countless Sydneysiders who have booked tours, eager to climb the 120 steps to the Cathedral belltower to see the massive set of 14 cast iron bells and to watch the bell ringers in action.
Tours of the Cathedral's belltower and the joyous peal of bells across the city are one of the highlights of Australia Day.
While the city's iconic Catholic Cathedral itself is an integral part of Sydney's Australia Day celebrations.
The history of the Cathedral which was designed by William Wardell is intertwined with the history of the city itself dating back to the days of convict chain gangs and bullock drawn carts.
"The Cathedral's bell ringers love ringing the bells on Australia Day and we particularly showing people around and telling them a bit about the history of the bells," says Murray-Luke Peard.
The 36-year-old post graduate student, musicologist, capella sublime singer and IT expert has been ringing the bells at the Cathedral for the past six years.
According to Murray-Luke, the responses from people who take the tour of the belltower are almost always marked by surprise and amazement at the massive size of the bells, the largest of which weighs a hefty 1746 kilos.
"Children are in awe while their parents are keen to know the story of St Mary's 14 bells, or 'set' as they are known," he says.
For architectural buffs there are also questions about the beautifully carved hand painted oak ceiling of the central tower, while others want to know what it takes to become a ringer and how strong you have to be to pull the ropes of one of the larger bells.
"Physical co ordination helps but strength is not an issue," he says explaining that the bells are balanced in such a way that once a ringer develops his skills there is no need for muscle power.
Together with the tours, two other very special highlights of Saturday's Australia Day celebrations at the Cathedral are performances by opera singers and also recitals by two of the world's internationally acclaimed organists.
Thomas Wilson, Director of Music at the Cathedral and an outstanding organist will give a recital inside the Cathedral from 10.30 to 11.am, while Oliver Brett, St Mary's Assistant Director of Music and a renowned organist will give a recital at 3.00 to 3.30 pm.
Both recitals will be played on the Cathedral's spectacular 3600 pipe organ. Every visitor to St Mary's Cathedral is struck by the visually-stunning organ which sits beneath a rose window in the Cathedral's western transept. Built by Canadian organ builder Fernand Letourneau in 1999, the Cathedral's organ's vast array of pipes include some the size of trees and others no more than a few centimetres high. The size and large number of pipes creates a vast range of tonal resources and the recitals are sure to thrill music lovers.
Among the pieces planned for the afternoon recital will be Robert Ampt's Trumpet Tune for Organ, June Nixon's Mr Purcell's Procession and Dulcie Holland's Toccata in the Baroque style.
The recitals and opera performances are free and all are welcome.
In addition to the celebrations planned at the Cathedral on Saturday there will also be an important Mass and commemoration of the Fallen. The Mass will take place at Noon and will include the laying of a wreath at the Cathedral's Fallen Soldier Memorial.
For details of times and events log on to www.stmaryscathedral.org.au
SHARED FROM ARCHDIOCESE OF SYDNEY