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Chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies, plays the keys of the bells, located at the top of South College. In August, the university will acquire eight additional bells. The new bells, Frenzel said, will enable him to play more complicated songs. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
Posted 01.31.05

Wesleyan to Acquire 8 New Bells for South College

Wesleyan has signed a contract with the Verdin Bell Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, for the casting and installation in the South College belfry of eight additional bells. This new addition will upgrade the Wesleyan bells from the status of a chime (10-22 bells) to that of a carillon (23 or more). Acquiring a carillon for the university has been in the planning stages since 1999.

The installation will take place in August 2005 with a dedication during homecoming/family weekend.

The new bells will provide the Wesleyan bell players with two full octaves and one additional note. 

”Now I’ll have more notes, so I can play more songs, and more complicated songs,” said six-year chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies. “We’re moving out of the minor league of bell playing and into the major league.”

 The new configuration will enable them to play songs such as Wesleyan’s Alma Mater, “Come Raise the Song,” written in 1894.

The bells are played in a way similar to a piano, except the chimemasters push wood handles. Some notes, such as a low C, can reverberate for 45 seconds and be heard for more than a mile away.

The new bells will be cast by Petit & Fritsen, the Royal Dutch Bell Foundry in The Netherlands, and then shipped to Cincinnati via New Orleans and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. They'll later be completed and fine-tuned by the Verdin Bell Company.   

Wesleyan's first set of 11 bells was shipped across the north Atlantic from England, while dodging German U-Boats in 1918 during World War I. They were first played on campus on George Washington's birthday in 1919 and donated by the seven surviving members of the Wesleyan class of 1863.

An additional five bells were donated to Wesleyan in 1966 anonymously. The donor was later revealed as Victor L. Butterfield, who was the outgoing president of Wesleyan at the time.

The new bells were all donated by Wesleyan friends, alumni and parents.

Each bell in South College has an inscription of a donor or a set of donors to Wesleyan University.

The bells are played nearly every weekday by dedicated members of the Wesleyan bell guild, Bell & Scroll. The chimemasters this semester have been Esther Cheung, '06; Kathleen Day, '07; Joel Ting, '06; and Allison Torpey, '07. They will be joined next semester by Jack Hagihara, '05, and Meredith Steinberg, '06.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations