Priest selects bell tunes with a mobile phone app

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Father Robert Cross is able to program the bells at St Francis Xavier Cathedral Geraldton to play tunes from his mobile phone.
Camera IconFather Robert Cross is able to program the bells at St Francis Xavier Cathedral Geraldton to play tunes from his mobile phone. Credit: Geoff Vivian The Geraldton Guardian

Father Robert Cross seems quite taken with his new pastime of playing the St Francis Xavier Cathedral bells from his mobile phone.

He said the 27 bells comprised the biggest carillon of church bells in Australia, which was also the first two-octave carillon with three slow-swinging bells in the world.

They are operated via a Bluetooth connection to either the organ, a small keyboard upstairs, a mobile phone app, or via the internet from anywhere in the world.

Earlier this month Jacinta Jakovich played a piece called The Westminster Chimes on the bells using the organ keys as a console. “It was just ethereal, you’d swear you could hear a ship’s horn blowing between the bells and the organ,” Father Cross said.

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“It was magical, I hope someone recorded it.

“We must get her up again to do it.”

Although they had been heard in Geraldton for some weeks as they were installed and tested, this was the first time the bells had been played at a Mass, on the occasion of their official dedication.

Archbishop Emeritus Barry Hickey, Bishop Emeritus Justin Bianchini, Bishop Michael Morrissey and many of the bell donors were there.

Father Cross said a notable donor was Laith Reynolds, of John Taylor and Co Bells in England, who donated the big Monsignor Hawes bell, while his son Andrew did the installation and set up.

The bells are an interesting mix of the old and new, as the bigger, larger bells were originally 12th century English bells, each of which had been recast several times after it cracked.

Father Cross said Laith Reynolds sourced these eight bells from the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Godalming, Surrey, and cast 19 new bells to complete the carillon.

The bells ring the Angelus at midday and 6pm, as well as striking the hours of the day from 8am-6pm.

As the Geraldton Guardian left the Cathedral on Monday, Father Cross had them playing the Beatles’ Let it Be.

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