Campus Soundscape: The Vassar Carillon

Campus Soundscape: The Vassar Carillon

Striking every hour, on the hour, with two concerts at 12:30 and 5:00 pm, the Vassar “bells” have been an essential part of college life since 1904. Although the music that streams from the Chapel tower may seem like a consistent element of the soundscape, it has been produced by several different types of instruments over the past century, from the original tubular bell chime of 1904 to the computer-controlled electronic carillons of recent decades. For this project in 2020—a collaboration among students, faculty, and staff—we climbed into the boarded-up Chapel belfry and sent up a drone to photograph its exterior, as well as conducting archival research to trace the history of the Vassar bells.

This research led to new developments. In fall 2020, a newly formed carillon guild began playing live daily concerts, with new and varied repertoire — and taking requests. Then a donor came forth to fund the acquisition of a sophisticated new digital carillon, with new and improved speakers, which debuted in September, 2021. The new instrument, a Schulmerich g5 Celebration carillon by Verdin, significantly expands the possibilities for new sounds, either from a digital library or played live via the Chapel organ keyboard. Still to come, we hope, will be the restoration of the historic 1904 instrument — the elegant, sonorous tubular bells, still in the Chapel belfry. 

The new digital carillon was a generous gift of Michael Karam, in memory of his wife Linda J. Morgan, Class of 1973.

You can email with questions, or requests for music you would like to hear!

Participants: Greg Deichler, Yvonne Elet, Chad Fust, Jennifer Gee (VC ’20), Kathryn Libin, Annie Sampugnaro, Sam Speers
Contacts: Sam Speers, Yvonne Elet
Category: Soundscape
Status: Ongoing