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Bradley Hilltopics

Fall 2007 • Volume 13, Issue 4

A little noon music

by Aimée Roy

Ever wonder about the bells you hear playing your favorite song as you stroll across the quad? The Bradley carillon has met with another change in its existence at Bradley since 1951. Dr. Ray Zarvell ’62 MA ’69, executive director for the Center for Student Development and Health Services, recently retired and passed the duties of  “master of the carillon” to Dr. Dave Vroman, chair of the department of music.

In 1951, the carillon was donated to Bradley by the Wallace family and consisted of a mechanical model with chimes and bells on the roof of Bradley Hall. After a fire destroyed Bradley Hall in 1963, the building was rebuilt and a new electronic carillon was installed on the third floor of Bradley Hall. The carillon operated by reading punched paper cards. The reader corresponded to a brass rod in another console. Hammers would strike brass rods and amplified sound would be sent to speakers on the roof.

The late 1990s brought a new carillon with an electronic console and new wiring and speakers. Users could store songs on a credit card-size card, and it could be programmed to play pre-recorded songs in a random order, for example at noon each day, or chime on the hour. 

When the newly renovated Bradley Hall opened in 2005, the carillon’s console and keyboard were replaced with newer versions. This enabled the carillon to play music in many different voices from English to Celeste. Musicians could play live music and have it amplified and sent to the speakers, or the recorded music could be programmed to play at a later time. The new carillon could also be used as a public address system to notify the campus community in the case of emergencies. “We’ve also started to use the carillon for special events, for example, playing western songs during last year’s western-themed Homecoming celebration,” said Zarvell.  

Vroman says he looks forward to learning about and working with the carillon. Many students who play the carillon are music majors or minors; however, it is open to students of any major.

“It’s just a part of our Bradley tradition,” said Vroman. “During special events, and at noon, you know you’ll hear it. It adds to the beauty of our campus.”