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Historic chimes sound again in Royce Quad
POWELL: After repairs to equipment, melodious music
back in bell tower

By David King
Daily Bruin Contributor

A tradition that has graced the ears of UCLA students since 1952 has come back to Royce Quad after a year of silence.

The chimes of the Powell Library Building, which resound from speakers in the bell tower, returned last week following repairs and the installation of new equipment.

The carillon, an eight-octave organ-like instrument which is responsible for the chimes, is kept in a basement room in Schoenberg Hall. The carillon sends the tones through electronic bellrods and solenoids, which then travel through cables in underground steam tunnels across to Powell.

Jeff Richmond, electronic technician for the Department of Music, said that of all his jobs, he likes caring for the carillon the best.

"This is something that's an honor to be a part of," Richmond said. "When the older carillon was broken, it was disturbing to me."

"It got to the point where the melody chimes just wore out ... the whole thing was so outdated, finally we just had to turn it off," Richmond said.

Purchased with university funds during the summer, the new carillon equipment is digitalized, and replaced all the recording and playing equipment. In addition, repairs were made to the carillon itself, so that it would sound better and require less maintenance.

The new equipment is good news for students who rely on Powell's chimes.

"I like the chimes (because) I never wear my watch," said Kavita Tekchandani, a third-year political science student. "They add to the antique atmosphere of the campus."

The carillon began as a donation of a few small chimes by Frederic Thorne-Rider, a Bel Air resident, in 1939. In 1952, the equipment that had served UCLA since 1939 was moved to Schoenberg.

Over the years, many Carillonneurs, or "chime mistresses," have played the instrument, including past faculty members Laura Brown, a member of the theater department, and Peggy Sheffield, a member of the music department and the last to play it on a regular basis.

"It's really an art to be able to compose a piece on the carillon," Richmond said.

Before leaving UCLA, Sheffield, who played the carillon daily at 11:50 a.m. and 5 p.m., recorded many of her songs on tape. These songs are currently being transferred to disks for the new equipment.

Despite the taped music, the carillon can still be played live.

Mary Crawford, graduate adviser for the School of Art and Architecture, has played the carillon for many past occasions, including spring commencement, memorial services, and Chancellor Albert Carnesale's inauguration. She has even been heard practicing on the carillon when she thought it had been turned off. "People came up to me saying they enjoyed the concert," Crawford said. "It was very embarrassing."

Although a relatively minor part of campus life at UCLA, the chimes have their share of history. Weird Al Yankovic recorded them for an album, and USC students have tampered with them as practical jokes.

When a mishap occurred in 1988 and the chimes failed to play, a professor kept his students 20 minutes past the class' scheduled time.

The chimes also have some myths surrounding them, including the false story that they were recorded from Berkeley's Campanile bell tower.

Because of their history, many people missed the chimes last year.

"I had a lot of calls wondering about the bells," said John Hayes, manager of technical services for the School of Arts and Architecture.

"The carillon adds a certain 'university' atmosphere on campus," Hayes continued. "I'm glad they're fixed."

October 14, 1999 UCLA Daily Bruin Online

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