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 rsl@vassar.edu 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