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Downtown, there’s music in the air again

After a silence of a decade, maybe longer, the carillon bells of First Baptist Church of Bradenton are ringing again.

No one seems to know the exact date that roosting birds damaged the bells and stopped the music.

“Only the pigeons would know. They stopped it,” said David Windham, a life-long resident of Bradenton.

The new carillon bells not only toll, but play hymns that can be heard in the neighborhood around the church at 1306 Manatee Ave. W.

There are a cluster of churches in that vicinity and Windham remembers as a child all of the bells tolling at intervals throughout the day. It was a beautiful, comforting sound from a time when church-goers often worshipped in one another’s sanctuaries.

First Baptist will dedicate the carillon bells 11:30 a.m. Friday in the Memorial Chapel. They will be dedicated to the memory of Shirley Long Smith by her husband, Bill Smith.

The return of the bells is a nice touch for a troubled time.

* * *

A few reflections on the inauguration of Barack Obama:

n Aretha Franklin more than lived up to her No. 1 ranking from Rolling Stone magazine as world’s greatest rock singer. “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” in the hands of “The Queen of Soul” is a rich and powerful thing. She’s a national treasure.

n When Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed his lines while administering the oath of office to Obama, it just shows it can happen to any of us. Even an esteemed and respected legal scholar like Roberts can take a big verbal tumble.

n The basket case that is the Dow closed more than 300 points down on the day of the inauguration, dropping below 8,000. Those crazy hedge fund managers and investors...

n Once in office, Obama quickly repudiated the use of torture in the war on terror, announced plans to close Gitmo and said he wanted to make government more transparent and information easier to obtain.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of Americans using torture gives me a queasy feeling. It seems downright unAmerican.

Also, holding anyone indefinitely without trial seems wrong, too. Let’s get those suspects tried. The guilty ones need to be punished appropriately, and the innocent ones, if any, released.

n The missile attacks of the Obama administration against Al-Qaida targets in Pakistan sent a message to terrorists that American resolve to win this war is undiminished.

n Harriette Merello, of Palm-Aire, is the lyricist who put words to Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn to Freedom,” a Civil Rights movement anthem that was played during inauguration ceremonies.

“The music is magnificently simple. It’s a simple, simple lyric and was very easy to write,” Merello told me. “Every verse ends with ‘that’s when we’ll be free.’”

Those are still lyrics to live for.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.