WXXI AM News

The Immovable, But Beautiful, Hopeman Carillon

Aug 7, 2015

There are many artistic and musical treasures in Rochester – one of the heaviest is the Hopeman Memorial Carillon in the tower of the Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester. 

A carillon is a collection of at least 23 bells arranged and tuned so they can be sounded together harmoniously. The Hopeman Carillon is made up of 50 bells. All together, the bells weigh more than six-thousand pounds.

What makes them a treasure isn’t just their sheer weight, but the beauty of their sound – which can be heard throughout the year in recitals, and even when students are practicing, according to Doris Aman, carillon instructor at the University of Rochester. She says that there is a power in playing such a public instrument.  

“I try to have my music be a healing kind of music,” Aman said. “Every time that I play, I have this feeling that there is an incredible amount of responsibility, honor, and privilege involved in that. It’s more so than I’ve felt with any other instrument.”

Check out the Harry Potter Theme played on the Hopeman Carillon:

Carillons played a unique role in American history. Aman says they were built as memorials to those who had died in World War I. Constructing carillons also helped European foundries rebuild their business after the war.

“The foundries that build bells are peace time foundries, Aman said. “In war they build armaments. But in peace, they build carillons and they found bells. So bells are a peacetime instrument and a peacetime investment.”

There are American companies that build and tune the bells, including one in New York State, the Meneely Bell Foundry in West Troy. In fact, their bells also have homes in Rochester. One set is at the Third Presbyterian Church, another at Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School. There are also single Meneely bells around Rochester and across New York State.

The best place to hear the Hopeman Carillon is on the lawn on the west side of Rush Rhees Library. You can find details about upcoming performances at the Hopeman Carillon’s website, or on its Facebook page