Of Bells and Carillons

Bell Tower
Of Bells and Carillons

This article was included as a booklet in the RCA album "Let's Ring the Bells All Around the Christmas Tree"

The gifted bell casters of antiquity, who created a deeply moving medium for expressing religious emotion would view with amazement and awe the world's largest carillon ensconced in The Coca-Cola Company Pavilion at the New York World's Fair-in a tower rising majestically twelve stories above its surroundings.

Their wonderment would be intrigued as much by the miniatured size of each of the 610 percussion-tone bells as by their unprecedented number, purity of tone, and orchestral combinations.

They, who cast their bells in weights of multi-pounds and tons, surely would regard as magical these miniatures that consist of only a few ounces of metal, yet reproduce with startling fidelity the purest tones produced by cast bells weighing many tons. Were the ancient bell casters called upon to duplicate the compact, streamlined "Carillon Amen-cana"® Bells, one of the World's Fair showpieces, with conventional techniques, they would be required to cast more than two million pounds of bells.

The bell ringers of history, dedicated muscle men of the past, whose strain and sweat were essential to the pulling and pealing of the mighty bells, would listen with disbelief at the instantaneous response of the miniature bells to a finger touch, and to the multitude of chords and chromatic combinations triggered simply by a hand skimming the compact keyboard of the carillon's control console. The days of muscle-straining bell ringing and the drudgery of playing from the clavier are gone.

The unique carillon housed in The Coca-Cola Company Pavilion was designed and built by Schulmerich Carillons, Inc., Sellersville, Pennsylvania, pioneer creator of electro-mechanical carillons and producer of bells for the world. The creator of this, the world's largest carillon, is the world's largest builder of carillons.

Schulmerich design techniques have successfully combined and blended an unprecedented number of bells - 610 - into a single musical instrument that responds instantaneously to the commands of a remote control console. Each bell is a tiny unit of traditional cast bronze. When struck by their miniature hammers, they produce the purest of bell tones-because each is tuned far more accurately and to closer tolerance than is possible with the most precisely cast conventional bell.

The giant carillon also represents a significant advance in musical versatility and diversity. During the 1964-65 World's Fair, carillonneurs from around the world will play musical works of all types and description on this unique instrument-from fully orchestrated compositions to light, airy popular music.

This exciting instrument also serves as the music source of the new RCA Victor album, LET'S RING THE BELLS ALL AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE, recorded at The Coca-Cola Pavilion by John Klein, renowned musical artist, composer, arranger, recording star. Mr. Klein is also serving as musical director-consultant for The Coca-Cola Company Pavilion and will perform a series of recitals during the two-year World's Fair season.

The bell has been known, loved and used by man for communication and for inspiration for so long that it is virtually impossible to trace its antiquity with accuracy. Bells in numerous forms existed long before the birth of Christ. History records that ancient civilizations, long since disappeared, used bells for their religious and ceremonial rites. Ancient bells have been uncovered throughout the Far East. Copper bells have been exhumed from ancient Peruvian tombs. Wherever human life existed, there is evidence that bells in some form were made, used and revered.

Before the Christian era, it seems bells were small and cast in many shapes. Larger bells began to emerge during the Christian era and many believe that credit for the bell's modern form belongs to Paulinus, Bishop of Nola in Campania, Italy.

By the ninth century, bells had become fixtures in the world's churches. It was during this period that the practice of blessing the bells by some form of Consecration became established religious ritual.

At this time, too, bells began to grow larger and special church towers were erected to house them. The richer the community, the larger its bell and the higher and more elaborate its tower; however, while bell founding and sounding techniques were refined constantly through the centuries to even finer perfection, the physical problem of ringing the bells became increasingly imperfect. Bell size began to over-power manpower.

Twenty-four strong men were required to ring just one bell at Canterbury, and it's recorded that sixty-three were needed to obtain a whole peal of five bells. Bells grew larger and larger and more difficult to manipulate. At the Cologne Cathedral, the largest bell weighed twenty-seven tons. The beautiful bell at St. Peter's in Rome weighed nine tons. Russia claims credit for the largest bell ever cast-the "Great Bell of Moscow," cast in 1734, with a total weight of more than 200 tons.

Although bells were known and used for thousands of years-from massive creations to small ceremonial types-the art of bell casting remained relatively unchanged until the present century. And because of the changes that developed in this century, in this country, America has become the birthplace and world center for modern carillons and bells. Today, Europe, once and for so long the center of bell craftsmanship and tradition, now looks to America for its modern cari1lons.

The modern carillon was born of need-a need to provide bells that would free churches and institutions from the high cost of purchase and the need to erect massive towers to contain and support them.

In the early years of the twentieth century, many churches in America were finding it increasingly diflicult to afford bells and towers. Rising costs were putting the beloved bells out of reach of many churches, and towers were becoming an increasingly costly factor in church construction.

From George J. Schulmerich, a young Philadelphia electrical engineer, came the solution. His work-producing and installing public address systems in churches-brought him in close contact with the problem. He turned to the field be knew-electronic amplification-to solve it.

He pioneered the field of electro-mechanical bells and carillons. These bells provide the same rich tones of the finest cast bells-but at a fraction of their cost and weight. They are truer tonally than cast bells because modern techniques make it possible to hold each bell to much closer tolerance in tuning. Moreover, each bell in the modern carillon is not only in perfect tune with itself, with respect to its several partials, but in tune with each and every other bell in the carillon. This achievement is mechanically impossible with a carillon of cast bells.

George Schulmerich revolutionized the art of bell making by marrying ancient bell techniques and modern electronics. In 1930, he invented the method by which modern carillons are now created. Months of research with his own sound engineers and with noted musicians uncovered, at last, the way to create with electronics the sound of a perfectly tuned bell without the great mass of metal required to mold a cast bell.

The instrument finally produced-the modern electro-mechanical carillon-consists of small bronze bell units which, when struck by metal hammers, produce bell tones that are barely audible to the human ear. At this point, modern high-fidelity equipment and electronic circuitry take over. The minute but perfectly tuned bell vibrations are picked up electrostatically, amplified to any desired proportion--even to more than a million times--and reproduced from the tower or roof of a building. Miniscule compared with traditional cast bells, these miniature bells equal and even exceed the giants of the past in volume and depth. Moreover, they reduce tower needs to a fraction.

Schulmerich® Carillons, Inc., is pace-setting the new art of bell making. Its creations are in use and demand the world over. Schulmerich installations are in churches, missions and institutions everywhere, pealing bell music which otherwise would be out of reach of many because of the great weight and cost of traditional cast bells.

Some of the best known Schulmerich installations are at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery; Bok Tower, Lake Wales, Florida; the U.S.S. Arizona, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; St. Donato's Cathedral, Murano, Venice, Italy; and the Truman Library, Independence, Missouri.

In addition to numerous churches and chapels, Schulmerich carillons and bells are installed in many universities and colleges-the University of North Dakota, University of Minnesota, Boston University, Westminster Choir College at Princeton, New Jersey, the University of Illinois and the Air Force Academy in Colorado, to mention a few.

Around the world, Schulmerich carillons peal out the majestic message of the bells in such faraway places as a military chapel in Japan, a mission in Alaska, a cathedral in Paris, a university in Puerto Rico, a church in Southern Rhodesia. This world-wide demand for Schulmerich carillons has transformed their birthplace, little Sellersville, Pennsylvania, into the acknowledged "Bell Capital of the World."

It is understandable, then, that The Coca-Cola Company turned to Schulmerich Carillons in 1962 when it conceived the idea of a carillon as a highlight of its World's Fair exhibit. Coca-Cola envisioned the exhibit as a contribution to the cultural motif of the Fair and decided that bells were the ideal medium to strike this cultural note.

Schulmerich was entrusted with the project of creating a carillon that had no match anywhere in the world. Such assignments are not unusual for Schulmerich. Its carillons had thrilled millions at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels and at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

Schulmerich's 610-bell "Carillon Americana'' for The Coca-Cola Company is indeed a carillon which has neither been seen nor heard before. It is housed in the 120-foot Tower of Music at The Coca-Cola Pavilion. At the base of the tower is the music studio and carillon control console-in an air-conditioned, soundproof, glass-enclosed room. The studio is so constructed that the carillonneur is visible to viewers from all angles.

Mounted at various levels in the tower are fifty-seven stentors or high-fidelity directional speakers, many of them more than five feet in length and driven by some 3,000 watts of audio power.

The stentor arrangement is such that they can be directed from the control console to broadcast the music of the bells throughout the fairgrounds or to bypass specific areas and displays. Also, within the plaza of The Coca-Cola Pavilion the sound of the carillon is projected downward to give the audience truly intimate reception.

The carillon at The Coca-Cola Pavilion merges 610 per-cussion-tone miniature bells. There are twelve basic tone colors, each with a chromatic range of sixty-one notes, playable from the two-manual console with a thirty-two-note pedal clavier. Fifty stop tablets control the various sets of bells. Beneath each keyboard are four adjustable combination pistons. Four expression pedals control the dynamic levels of various sections of the carillon.

Musical heart and tone of the carillon are its Flemish bells-the traditional sound that creates the true tone of the carillon. The lowest bell of this sixty-one-note set of Flemish bells alone weighs the equivalent of more than twenty-two tons of bronze. This set of Flemish bells, and the other sets of bells within the carillon as well, continues upward for 61 notes, or five octaves, in the chromatic scale.

The carillon's broad range of tonal variations stems, in part, from its variety of bell types. In addition to the Flemish bells are Campana, Harp, Celesta, Quadra, Aeolian, Bour-don, Nuova, Lute, Minor Tierce, Baroque and Celestial bells.

With twelve different sets of tone colors housed within the carillon, the possibilities for tonal combinations are virtually limitless. Orchestrations of infinite variety peal forth under the skillful blending of master carillonneurs.

Among the Schulmerich carillon's numerous innovations is its automatic Tremolondo, contained on both the Swell and Great keyboards. The Tremolondo is an ancient carillonistic device used to repeat a specific or selected note; however, the maximum effect of the Tremolondo on conventional cast bells is difficult to achieve because of the size of the bells and the limitation of repetitive speed. On the Schulmerich carillon, the Tremolondo continually repeats the striking of one or several bells, and creates unusual and exciting musical effects because it is both automatic and variable in speed. It can be stepped up to a tremendous rate of repetitive speed to pro-duce musical nuances rarely, if ever, heard on a carillon or conventional cast bells.

The console of the Schulmerich carillon is in keeping with the advanced design of the musical instrument itself. The interior mechanism, exterior keyboards, pedal clavier and operation facilities are housed within the striking and stream-lined cyma curved, white-paneled console. The console is as handsome and functional as modern console art can provide. It was designed to contribute a psychic accompanying enjoyment to the music of the bells.

The Coca-Cola Company has scheduled three daily carillon recitals at the World's Fair. Additionally, throughout the day from nine a.m. to midnight, the majestic carillon peals the individual hours.

In addition to the scheduled recitals, the carillon will honor special national days by treating its millions of visitors to recitals of music representative of the 125 countries in which Coca-Cola is sold. Also, the carillon will be used to welcome important foreign visitors to the Fair by playing appropriate music.

Official carillonneur is John Klein, who was also official carillonneur at both the Seattle World's Fair and Brussels World's Fair. He will be joined throughout the two-year Fair season by master guest carillonneurs from around the world.

Renowned for his numerous musical accomplishments, Mr. Klein is an acknowledged pioneer of carillon music. He entertained and thrilled millions with carillon recitals at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair and, in the same year, at the International Carillon Festival at Cobh, Ireland. He made music history one year later when his daily carillon recitals were a feature of the Salzburg Music Festival. It was the first time carillon music was played at this internationally famous music festival.

He has published more than 400 compositions, including specially written works for the carillon. Among his literary writings is the book "The Art of Playing the Modern Carillon."

John Klein is heard in a series of favorite RCA Victor albums including the delightful ALL AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE, for which he composed the title tune. You'll enjoy this sparkling collection of the most familiar and best loved Christmas songs and carols.

Played on the unique Schulmerich "Carillon Amenicana"® Bells by a truly gifted carillon artist, these beloved Christmas melodies emerge with new brilliance, new depth, new beauty.

Notes for booklet prepared by

® Registered trademark of Schulmerich Carillons, Inc.


Source: Album booklet, 1964 Radio Corporation of America

Schulmerich Headquarters Schulmerich Carillons invites you to visit their website at http://www.schulmerichbells.com/ to find out about their company today.


Webmaster's note... My thanks to Bradd Schiffman for contributing the story of Schulmerich Carillons at the Fair to nywf64.com. Bradd is a frequent contributer to the website with his many wonderful photos, collectibles and memories of the Fair.

Bill Young
January, 2003