As a high school senior, Ben Ramseyer attended a bell choir concert at the Presbyterian Church on the Green in Morristown, N.J. There he met music Professor William Payn, director of the Rooke Chapel Ringers, and two Bucknell seniors on the annual winter Ringers tour to seniors' hometowns.
"Dr. Payn started the program at this church in the 1970s and it blossomed," said Ramseyer, who learned to ring in kindergarten. "I talked to Dr. Payn after the concert and when I started visiting colleges. It was part of my decision-making to come to Bucknell to keep ringing."
Ramseyer played the middle-sized bells before moving to the largest bells in his sophomore year. "It's about endurance and being able to hold about 20 to 25 pounds out from your body, especially during (the Bucknell) Candlelight (service). It's also about keeping time and staying in tune with the rest of the bell choir." A senior majoring in geology and music with a minor in philosophy, Ramseyer played the big bells during the recent filming of Bucknell's annual Candlelight Service in Rooke Chapel. The program will air on PBS stations across the country in 2010.
This year's Candlelight Service also featured a legacy; seven big bells donated by Robert and Natalie Davis Rooke, whose home church is the Presbyterian Church on the Green. "Usually we rent the big bells for the Candlelight Service. This year, we noticed they were in new wrapping when we unpacked them. Halfway through rehearsal, Dr. Payn told us the Rookes had bought them for us. It was a nice treat for my senior year to have them for the tour and the spring performance." The Rooke family, including the elder Robert Rooke, Class of '13, have long been strong supporters of the University. The bells they provided and Ben will come full circle when the Rooke Chapel Ringers travel to the same church in January 2010 for the annual senior Ringers tour.
"It's important to note how much of an influence Dr. Payn has with the Bell Choir and the Chapel Choir," Ramseyer said. "I've never seen a professor have the rapport that he does with students. It's hard to get people motivated to love music on a Sunday morning but he's able to do it."
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