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Charles Baird Carillon in Burton Memorial Tower

What is a carillon?

A carillon is a musical instrument consisting of at least two octaves of bells arranged in a chromatic series and played from a keyboard that permits control of expression through variations of touch. A carillon bell is a cast bronze cup-shaped bell whose overtones are in such harmonious relationship to each other as to permit multiple bells to be sounded together.

The carillon developed in the area of Europe that is now Holland, Belgium and Northern France in the 15th and 16th centuries. There are presently about 165 carillons in North America, and several new ones are installed every year.

The carillon clavier (keyboard), located in a small room at the center of the bell chamber, is connected to the bells via a system of wires, levers, and springs. To play the bells, the carillonneur uses loosely-closed fists to strike wooden batons which are arranged like the keys of a piano keyboard. The lowest bells may also be played from a pedal keyboard. No electricity is required for the functioning of this system. There are also two carillon practice keyboards located on other floors of the tower.

About the Charles Baird Carillon

The Charles Baird Carillon, third heaviest in the world, contains 53 bells cast in 1936 by the John Taylor & Co. Bellfoundry in Loughborough, England. The largest bell, which strikes the hour, weighs 12 tons, and the smallest bell, 4 1/2 octaves higher, weighs 15 pounds. In 2011, the carillon underwent a complete restoration, returning the original highest two octaves of bells and the original clavier.

Charles Baird, the University of Michigan's first athletic director, donated the carillon. The tower, built with funds donated by many, is named for former U-M president Marion Leroy Burton. The tower and carillon were dedicated in 1936.

In celebration of the University of Michigan’s 200th year, the floodlights on Burton Tower have been replaced with a new system that illuminates the tower and its carillon from within, with more than 100 LED bulbs that can be programmed in various colors.

The University of Michigan added a second carillon in 1996. The Ann and Robert H. Lurie Carillon (60 bells) is located on the North Campus.

Recital Schedule & News

Thirty-minute recitals are performed on the Charles Baird Carillon at noon every weekday that classes are in session.

  • Join the mailing list to learn of special concerts and open house events
  • Follow @GoBlueBells on Twitter to find out what we’re playing daily.
  • "Like" our Facebook page for an alternate way to be notified of special events.

The Westminster Quarters

This melody is played daily on five of the Charles Baird Carillon bells, each quarter hour from 9:15 AM until 9:00 PM The selection heard here is the last part of the hour strike melody and the bourdon (largest, 12-ton) bell striking the hour twice.

High-quality Quicktime sound-only file
Good-quality .au sound file

Assistant Professor of Carillon Tiffany Ng on Inside Michigan Basketball. U-M students can apply for lessons using the studio application form


Burton Tower


Burton nameplate


Burton clavier


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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower