Wellesley's Guild of Carillonneurs Hosts Annual Haunted Carillon

October 31, 2012

Daring souls in search of seasonal spookiness before the arrival of Superstorm Sandy braved a spine-chilling climb to the carillon, high up in Galen Stone Tower. There they encountered skeletons, spiders, ghosts, and cobwebs while the eerie Addams Family theme and other terrifying tunes rang out over a darkened Wellesley College campus during the College Guild of Carilloneurs' Halloween Haunted Tower on Sunday.

“The tower is perfect for a Halloween event," says Carla Staffaroni '13, president of the Guild. "The haunting sound of the bells and the murmur of voices echo throughout the tower and shadows lurk in its corners. Guests and carillonneurs gather in the tower dressed in costumes to enjoy the music of the carillon together. And that is the essence of what the Guild of Carillonneurs is about. We play for others to enjoy our music.”

Carillonneurs—hidden from view—don't usually get to hear applause after a performance, but meaningful recognition surfaces occasionally. A friend of Carla's who graduated in 2011 returned to campus recently. She told Carla that one of her most memorable moments at Wellesley was hearing the bells ring out To Alma Mater as she was walking to her last class as a senior. Upon checking the Guild's concert log, they found that it was Carla who had been playing that day, creating this lasting memory for her friend. Carla went from "unknown" to "known" in a special, lasting way!

Guild of Carillonneurs

The Guild of Carillonneurs is a Wellesley College student organization whose members provide the trademark music of chiming bells from high above campus in Galen Stone Tower for students, faculty, and visitors to enjoy.  The current President of the Guild, Carla Staffaroni, '13, tells us how she became interested in playing the carillon and what a strong "sense of place" the sounds create whenever and wherever graduates hear one playing.

One of the most active groups on campus, members play about 200 concerts a year.  There are 20 active student members who receive lessons from official instructor and advisor Margaret Angelini '85, who started playing the carillon when she was a Wellesley student. A typical schedule for members includes one-half to one hour of practice and a one-half hour lesson each week, as well as a bi-weekly, 10-minute performance. Guild members take two field trips per semester. In December they will travel to Norwood, Mass., to play holiday songs on the carillon in the Town Hall for the community there.

Alumnae Support

The original 30 bells of the carillon were given by Charlotte Nichols Green in 1931, and the Wellesley Class of 1931 was the first sponsor of the Guild. After 15 years of strong support from the Class of 1951, the Class of 1985 now sponsors the Guild of Carillonneurs. The Class of 1947 donated the last two bells of the carillon in 1987.

Upcoming Carillon Events for 2012-13

December 8: Holiday Open Tower, 3:00-5:00 pm

Spring 2013 (stay tuned for dates)

February: Movie Music Open Tower

April: Spring Concert by professional carillonneurs

Early May: Change Ringing Open Tower (anyone can play based on a mathematical formula of English change ringing!)

Would you like to hear a concert online? Catch the 2012 spring concert or videos from Mozart to the Muppet Movie theme.

Fun Facts

  • It has 32 bells which have a range of almost three octaves.
  • The bells are made of solid bronze and are controlled by a series of levers that control the clapper inside of the bell.
  • The largest bell is 4-5 feet tall, about 3 feet in diameter, and 1600 pounds, the smallest bell is 80 pounds.
  • Each clapper is about 1/10 of the weight of the bell.
  • Although the keys are played with a closed fist, the carillonneur does not "pound" or "beat" the keys. A properly adjusted and maintained carillon allows the performer to play with a minimum effort.
  • The carillon was installed in 1931 and played at Commencement for the first time that year.
  • There are fewer than 200 carillons in North America, and Wellesley's carillon is among only a few that are played primarily by students rather than a professional carillonneur.

AND DID YOU KNOW? You can request a favorite song or a song to surprise a friend?