Little known fact: the first day of Daylight Saving Time is the bane of every musician's existence. We already stay up late on Saturdays playing all night long, and when we spring forward and lose an hour, it takes away one precious hour of sleep that we desperately need to keep the party train rolling. (For the record, "falling back" is our favorite thing ever.) We've actually just now recovered from Sunday's time shift, but in celebration (well, really in condemnation) of DST and this reminder that unlike the Rolling Stones promised us, time is not always on our side, we decided to share with you the interesting back story behind that chiming song played by every clock ever.
It all started when St Mary the Great Church in Cambridge installed a new clock in 1793. The melody is seemingly based on "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth" from Handel's Messiah. Historians dispute who exactly we can credit for the composition, but it was likely a collaboration between three figures from Cambridge: the civil law professor assigned the task, Rev. Dr. Joseph Jowett; music professor Dr. John Randall; and Randall's student William Crotch. Students at Cambridge took to calling the tune "Jowett's Jig," but that would soon change.
In 1859, the tune was replicated by the team that installed the Palace of Westminster's new bells, including one 13.5-ton bell that came to be known -- eventually along with the clock and the tower itself -- as Big Ben. The tower is of course a prominent feature in the London skyline and welcomes thousands of visitors each year. Its fame resulted in the clock chime tune becoming henceforth known as Westminster Chimes or Westminster Quarters and in the melody catching on like wildfire (too soon?).
And would you believe the song actually has lyrics? Inscribed on a plaque in the clock room and loosely based on a passage of scripture from the book of Psalms, the words you might find yourself singing along the next time you hear a clock strike go a little something like this: "All through this hour/Lord be my guide/And by Thy power/No foot shall slide." And in case you were wondering, Big Ben and his friends play this tune in the key of E.
Now we're going back to sleep and turning off all our clocks. Until next time!