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Carillon bells restored after 40 years of service

September 8, 2017
sparks fly as workers use a grider on a bellJosh Meeks (right), left uses a grinder to cut off the seized bolt of a bell held by Bill Morris (left). They will take this bell, along with other small ones, back to their shop in Ohio where it will receive a new clapper. The larger bells were restored in situ, due to their weight and size. (University photo by J. Adam Fenster)

The bells in tower of Rush Rhees Library will be silent for the next few weeks, while parts of the Hopeman Memorial Carillon are under restoration. “The restoration will improve the sound and play of the instrument, extending its life and use for years to come,” says Jimmy Warlick, who coordinated the project with Ohio-based foundry Meeks, Watson & Co. The company worked on 18 of the largest bells onsite while thirty-two of the carillon’s smallest bells were removed and transported off site to the foundry’s workshop for restorations.


Listen to The Genesee played on the carillon bells.

The 50-bell carillon was cast in Europe, at the Royal Eijsbouts bell foundry in the Netherlands. They were installed and dedicated in November 1973. The instrument is one of only seven carillons in New York State and it’s played regularly by students of the Carillon Society. Throughout the year, the sounds of the carillon can be heard on campus as the traditional melody known as “Westminster Quarters” marks every quarter hour. Student performers also perform classic and modern compositions for campus events, holidays, and special impromptu concerts. In addition, the University hosts an annual summer carillon series that brings internationally acclaimed performers to Rochester.

Honey Meconi, chair of the Department of Music, says the carillon program is booming thanks to Doris Aman, director of carillon activities. “Although we are sad that the carillon is silent for now, we’re very pleased that the bells are being restored,” says Meconi. “Rochester weather is tough on the carillon, and a refurbished instrument is a must for safety purposes.” Recently, the Hopeman Carillon Fund was established to cover the cost of maintenance and renovation to the carillon. “We have many student performers and loyal alumni and alumnae who are eager for the return of the bells,” Meconi says.

The bells should back in time for planned concerts during Meliora Weekend. “Our carillon team is already preparing” says Aman. “We will begin weekly informal rings as soon as the bells are functional.”

In Photos
(University photos/J. Adam Fenster)

 

The view from the top of the carillon during renovation work.

Josh Meeks (left) and Bill Morris remove a bell from the carillon.

Morris (left) and Meeks have a laugh after testing a new clapper in the number one bell. The new custom-made, cast-iron straight clappers will replace the original offset bronze ones in all the bells. According to Meeks, the new clappers will hit the bells more squarely, which along with new springs to offset their weight and provide a better sound for the bells, and an easier touch for players on the carillon’s clavier.

A bell with its clapper bolt threads nearly rusted away is pictured after its removal for restoration after over 40 years in service.

Meeks performs restoration work on the University’s bells.

The bolts which hold together girders supporting the carillon’s bells are replaced.

Meeks (top) and Morris use an impact wrench to replace seized bolts.

Meeks carries a bell through a hatch in the dome and down a ladder after removing it from the carillon. They will take this bell, along with other smaller ones, back to their shop where it will receive a new clapper and other restorations. The larger bells in the carillon received this service in situ due to their weight and size.

Meeks prepares the smaller bells removed from the carillon for restoration work before transport to his shop where they will receive new clappers and other restorations.

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Category: The Arts