Tower ready to ring in new year

Ball State's largest musical instrument, and tallest structure on campus, will soon be ready.

Shafer Tower's bells have been delivered and should soon be dangling over McKinley Avenue.

However, do not expect to hear them ring. According to Tim Vernin, one of the contractors installing the bells, the bronze singers will be dormant until Christmas time. Vernin said he hopes to have them rung for the holidays if everything goes according to plan.

"It's basically being treated like a musical instrument," said Kevin Kenyon, the associate vice president of facilities planning and management.

When it is completed, the carillon instrument in the tower can be programmed to play music or be played manually. It may be used to chime the hour instead of the North Quad's electronic chimes. It might play a song at 5 p.m. as professors leave for the day. It may even be used for concert performances.

The repertoire of songs has yet to be selected, though the Ball State fight song and other university songs are possible contenders, said Robert Kvam, interim dean of the College of Fine Arts.

The carillon can also be programmed for special occasions. Had they been in place on Sept. 11, Kvam said, they could have played patriotic songs.

However, the real treat, Kenyon and Kvam said, is when a person gives a live performance atop the tower.

"It will be something special when somebody is up there playing it by hand," Kenyon said.

Ronald Rarick, an assistant professor in the department of art, studied the instrument as a graduate student. He said there is no other instrument as dynamic as the carillon -- an instrument that can ring notes loud enough for the entire campus to hear. Rarick said it can also play a note so soft it can't be heard on the ground.

"People, I think, assume because it's very large, it must be very crude," Rarick said. "It's much more expressive than people might expect.

"In any case, they are rare beasts."

The carillon, according to Rarick, moves the clappers within the bells to create a song. Most of the bells don't move at all.

The last shipment of bells, all made in France, arrived Monday. A total of 48 bells, weighing from 29 to 5,100 pounds with vines of ivy carved into their perimeters, will be hung. Vernin said he hopes to hang the four of them tomorrow.

According to Kenyon, there will be a formal dedication ceremony for the tower during the spring semester. The tower is the tallest of its kind in Indiana, but the Matz Carillon Tower at Indiana University still has more bells with 61 total.


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