The Carillons In North America Essay

1765 words - 7 pages


The carillon culture in North America officially starts in 1922. Before this time, there were already four instruments with a "carillon" status. Three of them could be played by mechanical devices and one was playable from a keyboard. Two automatic instruments cast by the French bell founder Bollée were installed at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana (1856, 23 bells) and at St. Joseph's Church in Buffalo, New York (1870, 43 bells). The other automatic instrument was cast by Paccard in 1900 and it was installed in St. Vincent's Seminary in Germantown in Philadelphia. The only manually played instrument (though the keyboard was primitive) was cast by Severinus Aerschodt in 1883 and was installed at the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia (25 bells).
The person who introduced the carillon to North America was William Gorham Rice (1856-1945). He had visited Europe, especially the Low Countries several times. He visited libraries to gather information about instruments. He also visited many of these instruments. He was interested in towers, bell sizes and weight, and keyboards. He was actively promoting the carillon in North America and tried to show that although this instrument was new to America, that it had a long history and tradition in Europe. He founded the Carillon League, assisted in the foundation of The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America, and supported the Mechelen Carillon School. In addition, he published several books and articles about carillon art. He also encouraged the purchase and installation of many carillons in North America.

Before World War II

The first modern carillons arrived in North America in 1922. They were usually two- octave instruments made in England. Taylor cast instruments for Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage in Gloucester (Massachusetts), the Phillips Academy in Andover (Massachusetts), Samford University and the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham (Alabama). The first three-octave instrument, which was cast for the St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Morristown (New Jersey), was also made by Taylor bell foundry.
Gillett & Johnston made carillons for the Metropolitan Methodist Church in Toronto, Grace Episcopal Church in Plainfield (New Jersey), St. Stephen's Church in Cohasset (Massachusetts) and the Norfolk Memorial in Simcoe (Ontario). In 1925 they installed the largest carillon anyone in the world had cast before for the Park Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. This instrument changed the picture for what had been accepted previously as standard for the instrument. It was a four-and-a-half-octave instrument with a bourdon of E weighing 20,000 pounds, with a keyboard which was especially designed for it. That keyboard provided the basis for what later would become known as the North American Standard keyboard. The pedal span was enlarged to two and a half octaves and all the bells could be played from the manual keyboard. Furthermore, the pedal board was now made...

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