Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Saturday, 16 May 2009 16:59 UK

Bells play 'anti-religion' song

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
The cathedral has the highest and heaviest ringing peal bells in the world

Hundreds of people gathered to hear the bells of Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral ring out the tune of John Lennon's anti-religious anthem Imagine.

A team of seven volunteer bell ringers played the 1971 song, which begins "Imagine there's no Heaven", as part of an arts festival.

The cathedral said it had carefully considered the "sensitivities" surrounding the song's lyrical content.

Lennon himself described the song as "anti-religious, anti-conventional".

The former Beatle, who was born in Liverpool and murdered in New York in 1980, said it was also "anti-capitalistic".

It had to be right. There was no room for error
Sam Austin
Cathedral ringer

Leading the recital was cathedral ringer Sam Austin, 23, a student at Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music.

He said his team started rehearsals by playing the melody on hand bells before moving on to the cathedral's legendary church bells.

Mr Austin said: "It went very well. I'm pleased with it. There were quite a few people listening outside which was good.

"We practised for three months. It had to be right. There was no room for error."

Asked if there were any similar projects in the future, Mr Austin said: "We are trying to make a performance in New York but this is still an idea for now."

The original idea to ring out Imagine on church bells came from artist Cleo Evans, who was commissioned by Futuresonic, a cultural festival, to develop the concept with the cathedral.

The bells are the highest and heaviest ringing peal bells in the world.

'Spontaneous applause'

A spokesman for the Anglican Cathedral said: "The cathedral feel this performance has inspired many to think about their relationship with God in their lives.

"From what we have heard it's been received really well. We had around 200 to 300 people outside the cathedral for each performance. There were spontaneous rounds of applause.

"It sounded absolutely fantastic. It was slightly overcast but any rain didn't affect anyone listening."

Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono said the idea was "so beautiful, it made me choke up".

The 13 bells are arranged around Great George, a central ringing bell which weighs more than 14 tonnes and can be heard for miles around.

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