TRINITY’S SINGING TOWER
The Carillon at Trinity Church bears the inscription on the largest bell as follows: “TO THE GLORY OF GOD – The Carillon is the gift of Horace A., Alice E., and Madeline Moses – Trinity United Methodist Church – Springfield, Massachusetts – 1928” All remaining 59 bells are inscribed with the trademark of the maker’s name: “Taylor Bell Founders – Loughborough, England.” The installation began in 1928 and continued as bells arrived from England. The carillon is placed within a 100-foot tower known as the Singing Tower and consists of 60 bells yielding 48 tones. The clavier (key desk) cabin is located a total of 51 steps up from the main sanctuary level, and another 18 steps up via a circular stairway provides a spectacular view of the bells. A practice clavier (which activates a xylophone or tuned tubes) is an exact copy of the main clavier and is located in a practice room adjacent to the main cabin. This allows for simulated practice without the pressure of the listening public scrutiny.
In 1928, Trinity’s carillon was the largest ever built by the famous Bell Foundry. The design and construction of this particular instrument was somewhat experimental at the time in that the 60 bells were connected to a four-octave clavier, with double trebles for the top octave. Years later, the double trebles were disconnected because of unsatisfactory coordination in striking, but the bells remain in the frame (the only such set remaining in the world). Also, an electro-pneumatic player system was first introduced with this installation allowing the carillon to be preset and played automatically from a roll-player. Approximately two-dozen rolls still exist in the tower. A chronometer was included to strike the Westminster chime (bells) on the quarter-hours and the time on the hour. Trinity’s carillon was also the first to be electrically connected to the keyboard of the sanctuary Skinner organ allowing the organist to play one note at a time. Sadly, the entire player mechanism and quarter-hours/hourly strikes were disconnected many years ago because carillonneurs at that time felt the unit interfered with normal playing. However, the player mechanism has survived and is still in place (the only such system remaining in North America).
There are now 48 playing bells. The low C# bell was never installed due to spatial and financial concerns at the time, and the fact that music is seldom written for that particular bell. The largest C bell (known as the Bourdon Bell) is six feet in diameter and weighs approximately 8000 pounds. The smallest bell is seven inches in diameter and weighs fourteen pounds. The weight of the clapper on low C is 150 pounds and high C, the clapper weighs 1 ½ pounds, but the resistance to the player has been considerably equalized by the compensating device of balance weights. The total weight of the 60 bells is 44,634 pounds. The bells are hung stationary on a network of steel framing and are rung by the striking of clapper inside the bell. The foundation of the tower is sufficient to carry over twice the present weight.
As a point of historical interest, a carillon is defined as a musical instrument which is made up from a set of at least 23 graduated bronze alloy bell sizes, affixed in an orderly fashion into a steel frame, and connected to a clavier with levers which are manipulated by the hands and feet.
The carillon in Trinity’s Singing Tower is a transposing instrument. That means when you play a note on the clavier, it doesn’t sound the same pitch of note as it would on a piano or organ. While many carillons are concert pitch (when you play a “C”, it sounds “C”), this instrument transposes down a major third. The low “C” is actually connected to an “A” bell, the “D” bell is connected to a “B” bell, and so on all the way up to the highest bell. When the carillon was cast in 1928, for financial and spatial reasons, it just worked out that the lowest bell would be an “A” in pitch. Most carillon keyboards start with low “B” or “C” key, but this carillon starts with a “C” and the “A” bell is connected to it. Most listeners will not hear the transposition, but players sometimes do because they get used to the sound of a song in a certain key.
The instrument is played regularly before and after church services, and is frequently played for weddings and memorial services. A Little Night Music Concert Series features the carillon on Thursday evenings at 7:00 PM during the month of July, played by world renowned carillonneurs. Preceding each carillon concert at 6:00 PM is another very popular Concert Series, held in the main Sanctuary, offering a wide variety of local, talented musicians.
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Learn to Play the Carillon
Contact Becky Isaacson for a unique opportunity to learn to play this glorious instrument found in very few American churches today.
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CARILLONS IN THE UNITED STATES AND WORLDWIDE
There are over 650 carillons worldwide. The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America lists a directory of traditional carillons by state/province and city with locations and descriptions as well as non-traditional carillons (with electric keyboards) similarly organized and identified. Also included is more technical information about carillons and a map of North American and a worldwide set of maps collectively tracking the locations of all carillons in the world, including Trinity’s Singing Tower Carillon.Installation of the Taylor Bells beginning in 1928.