On Saturday the new and improved bells of South College rang out in a ceremony to dedicate the Wesleyan Carillon. Eight bells and a new keyboard were dedicated at the event in front of parents, faculty members, and other members of the University community.
“I give you a ringing welcome,” said Professor of German Studies Emeritus Peter Frenzel, who served as master of ceremonies.
The event is the second bell dedication in the University’s history, and the first since 1919 when members of the class of 1863 donated eleven bells. In 1966, President Victor L. Butterfield and his wife Kay made an anonymous gift of five more bells to the University, but the donation was never acknowledged in a public ceremony. Kay was in attendance to participate in the formal commemoration on Saturday.
The recent addition brings the total number of bells in the tower to 24. This converts the set from the status of a chime (22 bells or fewer) to that of a carillon (23 bells or more).
“The promotion of our bells to the status of carillon will allow our students to aspire to greater musical study,” Frenzel said. He also said that the popular mid-day songs like the Flintstones theme and “Let it Snow” would also not be discarded.
The improved range of the carillon was demonstrated several times during the event. At the start of the ceremony, the bells were all played in ascending order. Later, Mariah Klaneski ’04 played four pieces to highlight the versatility of the carillon and to commemorate the memory of the class of 1863.
Two of the pieces played were the old Wesleyan standards, “South College Shuffle” and “Ring the Bells of Old South College,” which recalled the history of the bells. Professor of Music Neely Bruce played “Twenty Four Bells” and Professor of Music Emeritus Richard Winslow ’40 played “Happy Birthday,” both of which provided a glimpse of the more serious musical exploration made possible by the addition of the new bells.
Each new bell was dedicated to a particular donor. As the names and the inscriptions borne by each particular bell were read, each bell was rung once.
Following the dedication, President Doug Bennet received a smaller bell representing the ones in the bell tower.
“Mr. President, I have the distinct honor of presenting Wesleyan this bell, a symbol of the recently installed eight bells,” said David Jenkins ’53, board member, fundraiser, and Baldwin Medal winner.
Bennet accepted the new bells and thanked recent graduates who contributed time and money. He spoke of the history and the future of such an important piece of the University’s atmosphere.
“We are here to celebrate both tradition and the future,” Bennet said. “I imagine [Butterfield] enjoyed hearing the bells as much as I do.”
Bennet presented Frenzel with a nameplate bearing the inscription, “Chime Boss” in recognition of his dedication to the bells.
A formal reception followed the ceremony. Alumni ringers were invited to play the new bells and guests were encouraged to ascend the tower to watch the carillon being played.
“When the bells are heard, we can hear more than song, we hear a connection to our humanity,” Bennet said.
The acquisition of the eight new bells was made possible by the generous gifts and hard work of many members of the community. Frenzel began the proceedings by acknowledging all those involved.