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Carillon Bells Restored to Original Glory

 06/20/2011

They have been conspicuous by their absence. The Charles Baird Carillon, 120 feet up in Burton Memorial Tower (BMT) on Central Campus, has been silent since April 2010. Under the direction of Steven Ball, University Carillonneur, specialist in the field of campanology, and assistant professor of organ and carillon at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the Charles Baird Carillon restoration project was undertaken. It is now complete; the new bells sounding better than ever, will be performed for the public for the first time on June 28.

As a campanologist, Ball recognized the absolutely unique historical significance and irreplaceable musical quality of these original bells, installed in 1936, but replaced 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 which was discovered in a warehouse in Cincinnati, owned by the Verdin Company. Dr. James E. Harris, world-famed Egyptologist and lover and supporter of organ and carillon at SMTD, understood the import of the discovery and funded the restoration of the keyboard. There are now all new clappers, designed and fabricated according to the original patterns and promising to produce a sound, described as “dark and smoky” that will also be clearer and carry much further. The largest bell weighs 12 tons and strikes the hour; the smallest bell weighs 16.5 pounds

Join us as the University begins celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Charles Baird Carillon, donated by Charles Baird, U-M graduate and former U-M athletic director, in 1936. The official anniversary celebration is scheduled for December 4, 2011, the actual anniversary date. The Charles Baird Carillon is the principal teaching and performance instrument of the oldest program for the study of carillon and campanology in the nation.

Here’s the line-up:

  • Noon:  All bells in the city of Ann Arbor will ring, followed by carillon recitals at Burton Memorial Tower by Jim Fackenthal, by Bill DeTurk at 2:00, and by Lyn Fuller at 4:00
  • 4:30 p.m.:  Lecture The History of the Organ in the Motion Picture Theater at Michigan Theater
  • 5:00 p.m.: The Casting of the Baird Carillon (1936) and The Back Page (1936), a silent film premiere at the Michigan Theater 
  • 6:00 p.m.:  Carillon recital at BMT by Carrie Poon 
  • 7:00 p.m.:  Grand opening of the new exhibit on bells at Hill Auditorium
  • 10:00 p.m.: The Phantom of the Opera, performed at BMT by Steven Ball

All events are free and open to the public. The Burton Memorial Tower deck and chamber will be open to the public during the day, from noon to midnight, except during performances and again immediately after the film.

past news

November 2012
June 2012
August 2011

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower

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