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The Carillon

Photo of the exterior of the Bell Tower.The Carillon is in the Belmont University Bell Tower, in front of the Beaman Student Center. Located in the heart of Belmont's beautiful campus, Carillon performances are held at various times during the school year to commemorate university events and festive holidays. The Carillon is played by Dr. Richard Shadinger, Professor Emeritus of Music in the School of Music.

The 'Singing Tower' built around 1853, was long one of the landmarks of the Nashville Countryside and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It was part of the estate of Colonel and Mrs. Acklen and was used as a water tower, with a moat which was spanned by a bridge at the entrance. During the Civil War it was used as a signal tower. During the time of Ward-Belmont School, the idea of a 'singing tower' arose.

In 1928, a carillon of 23 bells was installed at Ward-Belmont School for Girls. This was the first carillon in Tennessee and one of the first 25 carillons to be installed in North America. The bronze bells were cast by Gillett and Johnston Bellfounders of Croydon, England. The heaviest bell weighed 1,344 pounds. The official dedication took place in 1929 during Homecoming Week. The dedicatory recital was played by Percival Price, the Dominion Carillonneur of Canada and later University Carillonneur and Professor of Campanology at the University of Michigan. The carillon was a gift from alumnae of the school and known as the 'Alumnae Chimes.' The first carillonneur was Henry S. Wesson who was succeeded by Frederick Arthur Henkel. Ward-Belmont School closed in 1951, and the bells were removed.

In 1974, the ground floor was renovated and made into a Prayer Chapel and the present carillon was installed at Belmont College (now Belmont University) in the same tower, in 1986. It also consisted of 23 bronze bells, ranging chromatically throughout two octaves, with almost identical weights to the earlier bells. These bells were cast by the 300 year old bell foundry of Petit and Fritzen, Ltd. in Aarle-Pixtel, The Netherlands and installed by the I.T. Verdin Company of Cincinnati. The largest bell weighs 1,188 pounds. The bronze bells are located behind the screens on the fifth level of the tower. The playing room is located directly underneath on the fourth level. Dedication of the carillon was on September 5, 1986 with the dedicatory recital played by its designer, Richard M. Watson.

The carillon was purchased through donations from various friends of Belmont. One of the bells is inscribed to Drew R. Maddux, Sr, 'whose vision, leadership and personal support secured the Belmont College carillon,' according to then President William E. Troutt. This carillon is dedicated in honor of Chancellor and Mrs. Herbert C. Gabhart 'in grateful appreciation for devoted service to Belmont College and to the Kingdom of God.' Dr. Gabhart served as President of Belmont College of 23 years.

Belmont University purchased an additional eleven bells which were placed in storage. A gift from The Massey Foundation and other friends of the carillon have made possible the addition of these eleven bells and the casting of eight new bells to bring the total to 42 bells. In November 2002, the 19 new bells were installed by Meeks, Watson and Company bringing the total range to 42 bells. In 2005, a low D-sharp bell was added to complete the Carillon with 43 bells.

There are five carillons in Tennessee: Belmont University and Lipscomb University, both in Nashville; The University of the South, Sewanee; First Presbyterian Church, Jackson; Idlewild Presbyterian Church, Memphis.

Largest bell: Weight - 1,188 pounds
Smallest bell: Weight - 22 pounds
Total Weight of 43 bells: 7,477 pounds

Concert Schedule

Courtyard concerts are played at various times during the academic year. The carillon is also played for special campus events, including an annual Commencement recital. The annual tradition of a Christmas Eve concert, begun during Ward-Belmont days, has been continued with the Belmont carillon. All carillon concerts are open to the public without charge.

An automatic striking mechanism sounds the Westminster Chimes and strikes on the hour from 9:00 a.m. through 8:00 p.m.

A practice keyboard is located on the third floor of the tower. Carillon playing instruction is offered through the School of Music to Belmont students and musicians in the Nashville area.

Arrangements for group tours of the carillon tower may be made by contacting the carillonneur through the School of Music office, (615) 460-6408.