“Ring out, Wild Bells”

“Ring out, Wild Bells”

View of bells inside the bell lantern [Photo owned by Doris Aman]


Ring in the valiant man and free,
                The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
            Ring out the darkness of the land,
from “Ring out, Wild Bells,” Lord Alfred Tennyson


The University of Rochester’s Hopeman Carillon sweetens the River Campus air.

During the school year–as we march across the Eastman Quadrangle–when the bells ring, you see people reflexively glance upward from their phones and consuming thoughts — hearing and stealing a moment of the sublime. From mid-June to early August–when September still seems distant–we carry our blankets and picnic baskets to the Quadrangle for the Summer Concert performances. Uninterrupted July early evenings, sweetened air, as the sun dips below Mt. Hope.

Plaque all (1)

Plaques in Wilson Hall honoring the fallen of the University of Rochester, from the Civil War to the Vietnam War

Veterans Day Poster 2015 (3rd)
And, on Veteran’s Day, Wednesday the 11th, the carillon will ring on this special occasion. To honor the men and women–the valiant and the free–who have served in the Armed Forces, including those from the University of Rochester community, past and present.

All are invited for an hour of patriotic anthems, folk songs, Sousa march, hymn, medleys, fugues, peals — and an hour of reflection. For this day only, there is an opportunity for a member of the UofR NROTC or a student veteran to “ring the watch” at the beginning or during the Veteran’s Day concert at either noon or 7pm using the bourdon or lowest bell. Interested volunteers contact Doris Aman at [email protected]


View of the bell lantern above the Rush Rhees dome, the location of the bells [Photo owned by Doris Aman]

The Concert is one part of an ongoing celebration of the bells that have chimed since 1930. The centerpiece is the Hopeman Carillon Exhibition: Ring Out, Wild Bells in the Rush Rhees Library — a fascinating collection of photographs, newspaper articles, letters, graphic illustrations, old yearbook pictures and more.

In a 1974 letter-to-editor of the Campus Times, cleverly titled, “For whom the bells toll,” two students, Bob Goldstein and Andy Wolf, complained about how the “interminable clanging bells” seriously disturbed their sleep. At that time, the chime may have been programed to ring the traditional “Westminster Quarters” on the quarter hour for 24 hours a day.  So, their outrage was apparently justified.

Come soak in the 85 year history of the Hopeman.  Relive the days when the Bellman Society (1930 – 1973) reigned down from upper heights of Rush Rhees.

Ring Out, Wild Bells 2015

Naval ROTC students from the University—including Katherine Baum ’17 (above, left) and Jacob Shawler ’17 (center)— along with ROTC members from local battalions—including RIT senior Josh Nysenbaum (right), September 11, 2014

CONFESSION: Everything I know about the carillon comes from the extensive research done (exclusively for Talker) by students of carillon from the River Campus Music Department. By good fortune, I met the class instructor Doris Aman at the Ring Out, Wild Bells, exhibition, learning that one component of the course is a public relations project. I readily offered our blog as a venue for their presentation.

The class answered the questions most commonly asked about the carillon. First–and foremost–what is a carillon and what does it sound like? Then, how is the carillon played?


View of the console to play the carillon [photo Dan LaTourette, permission for use granted to Doris Aman]

Their impressive power point presentation covering the sights, sounds and fun facts about the carillon:

Get to know UR Carillon

In her essay contribution, Yumeng Chen, from China, described the exhibit in Rush Rhees. To Yumeng, the exhibition was a look into history–especially American history–she does not often experience. The original chime from way back in 1930 most captured her imagination. She liked how the scattered historical pieces and artifacts, “the evidence”–come together to tell a story of the bells and their players.


Armistice Day, now Veteran’s Day, marked the end of the first World War, the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

As you can see, students welcomed me into the carillon cabin as a special guest, playing for me as an impromptu gift. Typically people think the bells ringing are always a machine.  If we hear the Westminster chime ringing the hour, the bells are being activated by an electromagnetic impulse, a machine. Now we can all realize that if we hear music in between the Westminster hourly chime, human beings are playing the bells.

We within hearing distance love the bells.  And, now more people in our community can now learn to ring.  Eastman Community Music School has recently begun offering carillon lessons.  For inquirers to try the instrument, a tour of the carillon is available to Eastman Community Music School students and affiliates.  Contact Doris Aman for further information and dates.

The Veterans Day concert will be played by a team of community members, alumni, and current UofR students.  Their intention is to express gratitude to our servicemen and women for their service to our country.  It is an honor and privilege to ring the bells for them.


(left to right) Madeleine Davies, Jiawen Yang, Yumeng Chen, David Kramer, Alex Johnson, Yiting Zhang

“Let Freedom Ring” (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee) Arranged by Lee Cobb (b. 1963), performed by Doris Aman

NOTE: Mark Bergen, of the American Carillon Musical Editions in Naperville, Indiana, who holds the licensing rights to the arrangement, kindly waived the normal processing fee. Mark writes, “I hope the publicity on the Blog generates interest in the Hopeman Carillon.”
For more on other UR treasures, Dr. Ruth Lawrence and the George Hoyt Whipple Museum in the URMC:

A personal tour of the URMC during Meliora Weekend with Dr. Ruth Lawrence, URMS ’49, and still on the active faculty/ and In search of Julie Andrews at the George Hoyt Whipple Museum-

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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