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The Peace Bell

It wasn’t hard for local World Choir Games organizers to find a company to create a Peace Bell for the 2012 competition. Cincinnati, it so happens, is home to a 170-year-old bell-making business that’s put the chime in churches around the globe.

How’s that for a coincidence?

“It’s strange,” says Jim Verdin, president of The Verdin Company, headquartered in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Pendleton. “We would have probably made the bell even if the Games had gone to another state.”

But having both the Games and the bell in Cincinnati gave Verdin a chance to link the two in an exquisite way. The Peace Bell—which has been a fixture of the World Choir Games since its inaugural event in 2000 in Linz, Austria—is unmistakably Cincinnati this year. Made of bronze and weighing in at some 1,000 pounds, it’s etched with the images of such local landmarks as Fountain Square and Music Hall, which, fittingly, was built to showcase choral music.

“It’s really personalized to the city and this area,” Verdin says.

Verdin got started in 1842 building clock and bell equipment for Old St. Mary’s Church in Over-the-Rhine, a historic Cincinnati neighborhood. It has since shipped clocks, bells and carillons around the world, installing more than 50,000 pieces in places including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and Walt Disney World in Orlando. In 1999, it designed and produced the massive 66,000-pound World Peace Bell in Newport, Kentucky.

The World Choir Games bell ranks among the most unique of its creations, Verdin says. Designers wanted to make the bell shiny, bright and ornate—different from the simpler bells of previous games—with those particular Cincinnati flourishes.

“Nobody else has really put the inscription on the bell to identify a particular area,” he says. “The bells before were just a standard bell.”

More facts about this bell: It’s 3 feet in diameter. It strikes the musical note of A. It’s 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin. It’s in a 10-foot-tall frame, so you can see it up close, and it will ultimately end up on display somewhere in Cincinnati.

Before it does that, though, the bell will ring, as it always does, at the July 4 Opening Ceremony and again at the July 14 Closing Ceremony—a call for nations to unite and sing in peace. Its presence is highly symbolic to the World Choir Games, says Venus Kent, director of participant services for the Cincinnati Organizing Committee for the event—much like a widely recognizable icon from a different set of world games.

“It’s like the Olympic flame,” Kent says, “interconnecting all the singers of the world.”