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St. Henry's Church chimes now computerized

St. Henry's Church chimes are now computerized.

Those of you who stepped outside recently and were greeted by a bell-driven version of "Smoke on the Water" pouring out of the St. Henry's steeple, should know this: it was a fluke.

As with any computerized gadget utilized in today's increasingly high-tech world, there seems to be more opportunity for a glitch or two to sneak in. According to Father Joe Herzing, St. Henry's Catholic Church in Perham, the parish's new computer-operated bell system mix up was just that.

From now on, Father Joe assured, the church will make sure no secular songs get in the mix; playing musical selections hand-selected to coordinate with the changing church seasons.

"We can change it for the liturgical season. Right now it's playing Lent songs," explains Father Joe, who is in charge of the tunes the steeple broadcasts. "Next we'll play Easter songs."

St. Henry's acquired the new bell and music system at the end of November. The electronic carillon bell system includes nearly 2,000 recordings of real cast bells, chimes, tolls and musical selections. As new musical selections become available, the company the church purchased the system from will send the songs to the church free of charge.

Having music resonate from the tall St. Henry's steeple is no new phenomena. Prior to purchasing the high-tech computerized system, the church was utilizing an old tape system to broadcast inspirational tunes across Perham rooftops.

"We stopped playing music on the old system about a year ago," Father Joe said, mentioning how the tape system was starting to cause the music to drag at times. For nearly a year, the church only used the chimes.

Father Joe says they first learned about the computerized systems while searching the internet for options. St. Henry's decided on the BRG carillon bell system, which they purchased out of Kansas.

Included with the system are four specialized speakers that have been mounted in the tallest steeple at St. Henry's Catholic Church. The speakers are designed to play bell tones, working well with the low bell tone frequencies.

The music is run from a desktop computer. In purchasing the programming, the church also acquired the necessary copyrights to play the music. On average, Father Joe estimates they rotate between 50 and 100 songs at any given time. Over the course of a week or so, the system will play all of the songs selected for that season.

The bell system is set on a timer, with St. Henry's playing chimes on the hour and music on the half-hour. The bells can be heard tolling over Perham each day during waking hours, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.