About the NAGCR
What is the NAGCR?
A voluntary organization of change ringers and friends of change ringing in North America.
What are the official purposes of the Guild?
Although there have been change ringing bells hung in North America since 1744, and bands of change ringers have been active in locations as far apart as Quebec, South Carolina, Illinois, and British Columbia at various times since then, by the middle of the 20th century, change ringing on tower bells had nearly died out on this continent and records of change ringing on handbells are correspondingly scanty.1 In the early 1960's, there were only seven active towers: In the USA at schools in Kent, Groton, and Chicago and in Canada at churches in Calgary, Mission, Vancouver, and Victoria. Excitement about the installation in 1963 of change ringing bells at the new National Cathedral in Washington, DC, however, energized ringers around the continent and discussions about forming a guild to support, improve, and extend change ringing in North America began.
In late 1968 a peal was rung at the Groton School that the ringers present considered to have been the nascent event of the North American Guild. The official founding of the Guild did not occur, however, until the ratification of the constitution in the autumn of 1972 at which time 141 ringers became members. At that time there were 11 active towers in North America concentrated in the southwestern quadrant of Canada and the northeastern quadrant of the USA. Details of this history can be found in J. Michael Simpson's book, "There Was Life Before NAG."
How has the NAGCR grown since its founding?
In the 47 years since the Guild's founding, both the number of active towers and the number of members have approximately quadrupled. Eight long-silent, older rings have become active again in that period and more than two dozen new rings have been installed. Now, in 2019, there are 51 towers with active change ringing bands in North America.2 In addition, there are currently eight active change ringing hand bell bands. The Guild now has 572 members of which 22 were among the Founding Members. About 500 other ringers living outside North America are Non-Resident members of the Guild.
- maintains this website;
- maintains and updates lists of members;
- maintains and updates a list of affiliated towers and handbell bands;
- organizes one training course in North America each year;
- sponsors one annual gathering at which its Annual General Meeting is held in the midst of a weekend of much ringing and socializing;
- publishes a quarterly journal, The Clapper, in both paper and electronic form;
- sponsors one of the “chat” lists in which many members participate; and
- publishes an annual report of all its activities plus the current Constitution & ByLaws (see PDF below).
Just as importantly, the existence of this continental organization provides individual ringers, towers, and clusters of towers with the stimulation and support, both formal and informal, so valuable to the production of dozens of local and regional ringing events each year, the training of change ringing teachers, the improvement of ringing skills, and expanding awareness of change ringing among the general public.
How can I join the NAGCR?
Any one who supports the purposes of the Guild can become a member. If you are new to change ringing, contact your nearest band or the Public Relations Officer to learn more about how you can become involved.
If you already ring or are learning change ringing with a band in North America, ask one of the members of your band to "sponsor" you and then submit an application to the Membership Secretary, Mary Platt. Information about levels of membership and associated rates are available here.
What would be in it for me?
By joining the Guild, ringers have a more direct means of supporting ringing across North America than they would on their own. The challenges facing the Guild:
- Overcoming the inherent difficulties of North America's vast distances;
- Smoothing the transition of the Guild from its founder generation; and
- Maintaining an ancient art in the face of the electronic juggernaut
can only be addressed effectively by all of us acting together. Only by supporting change ringing on a broad scale can we increase the likelihood that there will still be bands to ring with as we move through this period of rapid change.
More prosaically, membership also provides on-line access to member contact information, annual reports, and the current issue of The Clapper, as well as reduced rates on selected items at the NAGCR store.
Who are the current NAGCR Officers and how can I reach them?
The names and contact information for all NAGCR officers can be found through the Contact Us page on this website.
1 Seven peals of bells originally hung for change ringing have been lost to a variety of causes since the 1700's.
2 Four towers - Abilene, Brewster, Burlington, and Watertown - became inactive. Two new towers - Nashotah and Portland - have been proposed.