A carillon is a musical instrument composed of at least 23 bells, arranged in sequence according to their pitch, to produce harmony when many bells are sounded together. The Longwood Carillon was made in The Netherlands by Royal Eijsbouts of Asten with 62 cast bells weighing 38,148 lbs. The largest bell is almost 6 feet in diameter and weighs 6,908 lbs, while the smallest bell is only 6 inches in diameter and weighs 20 lbs.
In 1929-30, founder Pierre du Pont constructed Longwood’s 61-foot-tall stone Chimes Tower based on a similar structure he had seen in France. In 1956, the original chimes were replaced with a 32-note electronic carillon. In 2000, the new 62-bell carillon was crafted in The Netherlands.
Longwood closed the Chimes Tower in February 2001 to renovate the structure for the new carillon in the top chamber. Since the renovation, the upper portion of the tower remains closed (except after scheduled live concerts by a carillonneur), but the lower stairway is open for public use.
Two video screens have been installed outside the Chimes Tower. These screens enhance visitors’ experience by providing an 8-minute video telling the history of the Tower and bells, and showing how Longwood's carillon is played. During live performances, the screens allow visitors to watch each carillonneur play the instrument.
How is The Longwood Carillon played?
The 5-octave carillon can be played by hand or automatically by a new touch-sensitive computer system. The bells are stationary and have 2 strikers each, one inside each bell connected by wires and levers to the manual keyboard that a carillonneur strikes with the hands, the other an external striker powered by an electromagnet and connected to the computerized recording/playback system.
Chimes Tower Tours
The lower half of the Tower is open daily during public hours. The upper half and carillon are open for touring only following scheduled live concerts by a carillonneur.
Upcoming Carillon Performances
Doug Gefvert is the Chapel Carillonneur at Washington Memorial National Carillon, Washington Memorial Chapel, Valley Forge.
Lisa Lonie is the Carillonneur at St. Thomas Church, Whitemarsh Pennsylvania and Princeton University.