Chimes of the Past

A group of young soldiers proudly paraded up Andover Hill in their stiff, flawless uniforms. At the sergeant’s command, they abruptly stopped and turned to face him in unison. Years ago, this scene was a reality right on our campus. During the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I, military companies could be seen drilling on the Memorial Bell Tower field. Now, instead of training armies, the field is home to the landmark Memorial Bell Tower, built to honor the 85 Andover alumni who died serving in World War I. The tower has long stood as a landmark for Andover residents and students, and for the first 66 years of the tower’s existence, the familiar sound of the bells was an important part of its character. In 1989, however, the bells fell silent and remained that way for the next 11 years. Due to rust and design flaws, the Memorial Bell Tower was falling apart from the inside out. The tower was in desperate need of repair. In 2005, the school began the task of rebuilding the tower. In addition to structural repair, many of the bells were replaced and outfitted with a ground-electronic system, to chime regularly on a timing system. In 2006, the bells could be heard across the Andover campus for the first time in years. Danny Silk ’07 said, “The view of the bell tower while walking to the gym from Siberia has always been one of my favorite views on campus. It’s nice to see it back in action.” Since the Bell Tower’s repair, the bells have become a familiar and comforting aspect of campus life. The tower even plays the same chimes that rang across the Andover campus prior to their renovation. The bells currently play the famous Westminster chime, composed by child prodigy William Crotch. Matt Schubert ’07 said, “I like to hear the chimes because it adds an element of [calm] to our otherwise stressful and busy lives.” The chimes of the bell tower do more than provide a relaxing musical background to the day. Ziwe Fumoduh ’10 said, “The tower provides me with a sense of time. Honestly, it helps me get to class on time.” Now that the bells ring across the Andover campus again, the school has decided to solicit the input of the entire community. Clift Record Librarian Wendy Heckman said, “They feel that it’s the students’ and community’s school so they want to know how the students feel. Even the trustees get to vote. It’s nice to choose the chime that the community likes best.” The possible chimes for the Memorial Bell Tower were first selected by Clift Record Librarian Carl Jackson and were then submitted to a committee. The committee narrowed the choices down to four chimes: Guildford, Westminster, Whittington, and Parsifal, before administering a student survey. So far, the students seem to be in favor of the Westminster chime. Ashley Noble ‘09 said, “I like the Westminster chime best because it’s a classic. It’s also better than all the other ones – a little more subtle.” Indeed, the Westminster chimes seem to be the favorite because these are the world’s most famous and most recognizable chimes. They are most notably played on the Victoria Clock Tower of the House of Parliament in London. These chimes were played every quarter hour from 1923 to the late 1960’s when the Bell Tower fell into disrepair. If Andover adopts the Westminster chimes, we will be repeating an Andover tradition. However, Jane Shin ’08 said, “I hope students will choose another chime, something that we can we can call our own.” The Whittington chimes, dating back to the 14th century, offer a unique sound as well as an interesting story. The chimes were named after Whittington because the former Lord Mayor of London Town heard them say “Turn again-Whittington, Lord Mayor Town of London.” The Parsifal chimes history began right here in Andover. Carl F. Pfatteicher, former chair of the Music Department, composed the eight note chimes and are the first couple of phrases of the Phillips Hymn. These chimes rang in the newly rebuilt bell tower, when they played on May 3, 2006. The Guilford chimes, composed in 1843, can often be heard in Europe. The chimes played every quarter build up tension throughout the hour and is only resolved by the harmonious sounds of the last quarter hour chime. The Memorial Bell Tower and its chimes have become a permanent landmark of the town of Andover, so if you haven’t filled out the chimes survey yet, do it before it is too late!