by Rachel Francisco12/01/2011
On December 4, beginning at 5:15 p.m., University Carillonneur Steven Ball will re-create the 1936 dedicatory recital in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the newly restored instrument's installation in Burton Memorial Tower. The concert follows the University Musical Society presentation of the Messiah at Hill Auditorium.
The carillon was donated by Charles Baird, a UM graduate and former athletic director. The bells of the Baird Carilllon have been silent since April 2010, rang for one brilliant day in June 2011, and will once more ring again beginning December 4. Under the direction of Steven Ball, University Carillonneur, specialist in the field of campanology, and professor of organ and carillon at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the Charles Baird Carillon restoration project was undertaken.
As a campanologist, Ball recognized the absolutely unique historical significance and irreplaceable musical quality of these original bells, installed in 1936, but placed 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 and all new clappers, designed and fabricated according to the original patterns and promising to produce a sound that has been described as “dark and smokey.” The largest bell weighs 12 tons and strikes the hour; the smallest bell weighs 16.5 pounds.
Recent research revealed that the instrument was revolutionary in numerous ways: the first use of ball bearing transmission, the heaviest ever cast by John Taylor & Co. Bellfoundry in Loughborough, England in 1936, the first to use "B" crooks and, one of the first carillons to be built in the United States, and, of course, the principal teaching, and performance instrument of the oldest program for the study of carillon and campanology in the nation.