Carillon News

September 9, 2013

Campanologist Carl Zimmerman has for many years maintained a website with a huge amount of information on carillons and bells, an excellent reference site. He sent this information about tower chimes as well as a plea for information to keep the site as current as possible. Zimmerman has been a carillonneur member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America for more than half a century, and a handbell ringer, change ringer, and researcher into the history and products of American bellfounders. His website, www.TowerBells.org, covers all these topics and more. It will eventually present technical details about every carillon, chime, zvon, and great bell (over 4 tons) in the world, as well as all rings and tubular tower chimes outside of the United Kingdom. It is already complete, as far as is known, in some respects for many areas of the world.

Many organists are familiar with the names of Deagan and Mayland, inventors of distinct types of organ chimes that are still available today, albeit not from the original manufacturers. Some may know that John C. Deagan also produced tower chimes, sets of 10 to 32 tubular bells weighing up to several hundred pounds each, made from the same material as conventional bronze bells. All have electric actions, and many were equipped to be played from the organ console as well as by other means. Over 400 such tower chimes were made by Deagan, and many of them are still in more or less regular use today.

The word “chimes” can be either singular or plural, depending on context. In the archaic singular usage, “chimes” means “a group of bells,” but there is no singular equivalent. Example: “I heard the chimes pealing out on Christmas Eve.” In present-day plural usage, “chimes” means “more than one chime,” i.e., more than one set of bells, which can be used to play melodies but are not large enough to qualify as a carillon. Example: “Our town has three chimes—one in each of the three principal churches.” Without the qualifier “tubular,” a chime is always assumed to be made of conventional cast bronze, tower bells, as a carillon is. With the qualifier “tubular,” it is important to use the additional qualifier of “tower” in order to distinguish such instruments from the sets of thin-walled tubular bells found in pipe organs, long-case chiming clocks, etc.

Prior to a discovery last year, it was not known that Rowland H. Mayland also produced tubular tower chimes, playable from an organ console. One such chime survives in a church on Long Island. Though it is no longer playable from the organ console, its original electric action still works, now under control of a modern clock mechanism. Mayland’s own descendants, while quite familiar with the organ chime business, were totally unaware of their ancestor’s work on tower chimes until this discovery was reported to them.

A single Mayland tower tube also survives in the great Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia. Its acquisition is undocumented, but there is speculation that it might have been submitted as a sample when the addition of a tower chime to that organ was being planned. In the end, a 37-note Deagan tower chime, the only one of that size ever built, became the present Major Chimes stop on that organ. There is also a Minor Chimes stop, which is a set of regular organ-style tubular bells.

Mayland’s work with tower chimes preceded that of Deagan, whose first such installation was in 1916. Very little is known of this period of transition from the manually operated tubular tower chimes of Walter H. Durfee and the U.S. Tubular Bell Company to the electrically operated tubular tower chimes of Mayland, Deagan, and possibly also McShane.

All tubular tower chimes that are currently known are listed and described at www.TowerBells.org. If your church has such a chime, or if you know of one nearby, you may be able to contribute to improving those listings and descriptions and the related history. Friends of tubular tower chimes will thank you!

Send items for “Carillon News” to Dr. Brian Swager, c/o The Diapason, 3030 W. Salt Creek Lane, Suite 201, Arlington Heights, IL 60005-5025; or e-mail [email protected]. For information on the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America: www.gcna.org.

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