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Silent no more

Carillon bells restored

June, 2011

By Betsy Goolian

They have been conspicuous by their absence.

The Charles Baird Carillon, 120 feet up in Burton Memorial Tower on Central Campus, has been silent since a year ago April. Under the direction of Steven Ball (photo right), University Carillonneur, specialist in the field of campanology, and assistant professor of organ and carillon at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the Charles Baird Carillon restoration project was undertaken. It is now complete; the new bells sounding better than ever. The first public performance was June 28.

As a campanologist, Ball recognized the absolutely unique historical significance and irreplaceable musical quality of these original bells, installed in 1936, but replaced in a 1974 renovation—and almost sent to the scrap yard before being rescued by Ball.

The original bells have now been restored and reinstalled, along with the original keyboard, discovered in the possession of Dr. James E. Harris, world-famed Egyptologist and lover and supporter of organ and carillon at SMTD. When contacted by Ball, Harris not only understood the import of the restoration project but also happily donated the keyboard back to the University. There are now all new clappers, designed and fabricated according to the original patterns and promising to produce a sound, described as “dark and smoky” that will also be clearer and carry much further. The largest bell weighs 12 tons and strikes the hour; the smallest bell weighs 16.5 pounds.

Join us as the University begins celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Charles Baird Carillon, donated by Charles Baird, U-M graduate and former U-M athletic director, in 1936. The official anniversary celebration is scheduled for December 4, the actual anniversary date. The Charles Baird Carillon is the principal teaching and performance instrument of the oldest program for the study of carillon and campanology in the nation.

NOTE: To watch a video produced by WXYZ-TV, Channel 7, please click CARILLON VIDEO

Betsy Goolian is a writer/editor at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

4 Comments

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4 Comments to Silent no more

  1. by Mintii

    On June 24, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I am very happy to hear this! I miss the beautiful sounds of the bell tower, especially during spring and summer with the water fountain. :D

  2. by Rex Vaughn

    On June 25, 2011 at 8:32 am

    An historical review of why the original bells and keyboard were replaced in 1974 would be an interesting read. Especially in light of their reinstallation. So what has happened to the ’74 vintage bells?

  3. by Amy Rosenberg

    On June 26, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I’m delighted that the bells have been restored. Could you tell me if there’s an elevator in Burton Tower?
    The time we went up there,about a year and a half ago, we had to stop mid-way because there was no elevator. We were told that the Tower was on the bottom of the renovation list. I,and my now husband,are disabled!

  4. by Sue Kucukarslan

    On June 30, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Heard the bells during walk. Awesome!

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