New developments in campus carillon chimes cheer all
ELIZABETH ALDERFER Staff Writer
While walking around campus this year, students and faculty are sure to hear church bells and hymns ringing out from Memorial Hall. The beautiful chime of bells tolls through campus to tell the time of day, or provide a hymn to hum along to as we walk to our next class. There is a significant reason for their enhanced presence on campus; a new project featuring the chimes is in the works! While this is still in the beginning stages, it is an exciting new development for the campus.
The recent developments with the system are a result of malfunctions of the original system, installed in 1995, which hadn’t been functioning properly for several months. The system was stuck playing the same songs repeatedly, striking a monotonous and dreary tone across campus. Thanks to the generosity of a donation, the College was able to purchase a new software solution.
“This system uses speakers to reproduce the system of a carillon bell system. There are no actual bells,” Roger Reimer, a member of maintenance, who has been a key force on this project.
The software includes a library of hymns it selects from when the time comes to play a hymn. The system is programmed to sound at the top of each hour between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., while hymns are scheduled to play at 8 am, noon, and 6 pm. Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities William Eash, Roger Reimer and Emma Beachy, junior from Kalona, Iowa, have been exploring ways of playing a greater variety of hymns over the system. Beachy, a pianist, is working on recording hymns.
“I will be recording the hymns using the school's synth with a bell setting. I'll be recording general hymns as well as some seasonal ones,” Beachy said.
The hope is to get some recordings finished before the break, in time for students to enjoy them before heading home. Along with recording the hymns, Beachy is putting together historical background information about them, which can be released to the campus community. The information will include writings about the hymns, and the texts within them. While this plan is still in development, it is possible the information could be released weekly, with the featured hymn playing the following week.
This isn’t the first time the sound of bells has rung through Bethel’s campus. John Thiesen, who works with the Mennonite Archives, was able to provide some history.
“A music or carillon-type system, originally referred to as the ‘singing tower,’ was installed in the upper floor of the Ad Building in 1935,” Thiesen said.
Later, in the 1950s or 1960s, this system or a similar one was moved to Bethel College Mennonite Church. Thiesen also noted a time-keeping bell system on campus, installed in the Administration Building in 1895. While these systems were a part of Bethel’s history, there has been no timekeeping system on campus for the last 50 years, roughly.
This project is an exciting one for the campus. Students and staff have thoroughly enjoyed hearing the chimes throughout the semester. A huge thanks to everyone who has contributed to this project and will continue to dedicate their time to it. Threshers, keep your ears open for the sound of the bells and the hymns to come!