Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Retired in Ann Arbor: Celebrating 75 years of The Burton Tower Carillon

On December 4, 1936, the Charles Baird Carillon was dedicated and heard for the first time.   Last Sunday, at 5:15, we walked toward Burton Tower as Steven Bell, the current University Carillonneur recreated the first public performance on the instrument.

After listening to the first strains of Beethoven's Ode to Joy, we followed the directions, and took the elevator to floor 8, and then walked up to floor 9.

What an awesome surprise!  Floor 9 is an open air floor where all the bells are housed, so the experience is like being inside a gigantic music box, while it is being played.  It's amazing to be able to hear and feel the music at the same time!

The view is beautiful, and you can watch the performer strike the thin wooden handles that comprise the keyboard and foot pedals.  Except for the clock chime, there is no automation of any kind-- the music is an actual performance by the live carillonneur playing the instrument, whose origins can be traced directly to 16th century Europe.

More information:

Burton Memorial Tower

  • designed by Albert Kahn 
  • 212 feet high

Charles Baird Carillon

  • total of 53 bells
  • largest weighs over 24,000 lbs
Thanks to the UMS program notes for the above information.


This link to The Charles Baird Carillon, as well as the link in the first paragraph give much more information.

Want to see and hear it for yourself?  The carillon and observation deck are open to the public Monday through Friday from 12:00-1:00 PM every day that classes are in session.

You might also want to stop into Ashley's for a pint before or after you visit.  Choose from 70 beers on draft, and 90+ bottles, including many beers brewed in Michigan.  Here is an excellent article from The Michigan Daily that does a great job in describing the experience.

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