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History of the Carillon

bells of the original Hopeman Memorial Chime

The original 17 bells of the Hopeman Memorial Chime are displayed on the Eastman Quadrangle before being installed in the Rush Rhees Library tower in 1930. (Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Rochester Libraries)

The Hopeman Memorial Carillon is located in the landmark Rush Rhees Library tower and was dedicated in a special concert on December 9, 1973. Its 50 bells cover more than four octaves and were cast in bronze by Royal Eijsbouts Bellfoundry of Asten, the Netherlands.

dedication to AW Hopeman on the largest bell of the carillon
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Rochester Libraries

The carillon replaced the 17-bell Hopeman Memorial Chime, which was installed in the tower in 1930. The original bells were cast at the Meneely Bell Foundry in Watervliet, New York. Two bells were added to the chime in 1956. Though the carillon is much bigger than the original chime, it is also much lighter. The new bells weigh a total of 6,668 lbs, while the largest single bell in the chime weighed 7,800 lbs.

View photos taken during the installation in 1973

Student and guest carillonists perform on the instrument throughout the year, and an electronic system is programmed to chime on the quarter hour. The traditional "Westminster Quarters" (or "Big Ben" chime) was replaced during the University's sesquicentennial celebration in 2000 by the "Rochester Quarters," composed by former Department of Music professor Daniel Harrison. (The "Westminster Quarters" returned in 2004.)

Hear the "Rochester Quarters" as the clock strikes noon
inner working of the carillon

What is a carillon?

A carillon is a musical instrument consisting of at least 23 bells that have been precisely tuned so that many bells can be sounded together harmoniously. (A carillon is larger than a chime, which is a set of eight to 22 bells.) Carillon bells are stationary; only their clappers move. The clapper of each bell is connected by a thin metal rod to a keyboard, The keyboard contains a double row of rounded wooden levers that serve as the keys. A carillonneur plays the instrument by striking these keys with loosely clenched fists.

Hopeman family

The original Hopeman Memorial Chime was given to the University in memory of Arendt W. Hopeman by his daughter and two sons in 1930. Arendt Hopeman founded A.W. Hopeman Builder in 1869. The company served as the general contractor of the River Campus from 1927 to 1930, and also built the Eastman Theatre, Eastman School of Music, Eastman Kodak headquarters and other Rochester landmarks. The Hopeman Engineering Building on River Campus is also named for him.

plaque dedicated to Arendt Hopeman

His daughter Margaret Hopeman was a 1903 alumnus of the University and received her Master of Arts degree from Rochester in 1906. His son Albert A. Hopeman served as president of the newly named A.W. Hopeman and Sons, as well as chairman of the board of Hopeman Brothers, a shipbuilding jointer firm. His brother Bertram Hopeman served as treasurer of Hopeman Brothers.


Bellman and carillonists

The first University bellman was John Rothwell Slater, chairman of the English department, who served as bellman from 1930 to 1940. Alumnus and honorary trustee Robert Metzdorf took over from 1940 to 1949 while serving on the staffs of Rush Rhees Library and the English department. Students served as bellmen from 1949 to 1953, when the Bellman Society was founded to provide undergraduate students to play the chime. From 1930 to 1973 while the chime was in service, 98 individuals performed as bellmen.

person playing the carillon keyboard with clenched fists
(Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Rochester Libraries)

The first person to play the new carillon was Dutch carillonist Arie Abbenes, who performed at the dedication concert in 1973 and stayed on campus for several weeks to help train new carillonists. The carillon is played quite differently from the former chime. To avoid having practice sessions and lessons heard across River Campus, a practice keyboard is available in Spurrier Hall.

Former UR carillonists include Daniel Harrison and Tiffany Ng.  Currently, Webster NY resident Doris Aman and her students continue the tradition by playing the carillon frequently throughout the year and especially to mark major University events.  Special event, wedding, and memorial performance requests are welcomed.  The tradition of student carillon performance has recently been revived, and undergraduates interested in learning how to play are encouraged to contact Doris Aman at doris.aman@gmail.com.

For more information on the Hopeman Memorial Carillon or to contribute to its restoration and student accessibility, contact Joe Hanson in the Music Department at (585) 275-2828.