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