News

Parsifal Chime in Lead as Survey Ends; Mrs. Chase Will Make Final Decision

Students and faculty recently participated in a survey to select the melody the newly reconstructed Memorial Bell Tower chimes will play. Those surveyed chose between the Parsifal, Westminster, Guilford and Whittington chimes. An option of a survey was announced last year on May 3 at the dedication of the carillon during All-School Meeting. Unfortunately, it was late in the spring term, and with summer quickly approaching, the survey was delayed. With the results of the survey out, Mr. Carl Johnson, head of the Clift record library, said, “the decision ultimately rests with Mrs. Chase and Michael Ebner, but I expect to discuss it with them and several faculty who have been involved in the carillon renovation.” Mr. Ebner explained that the survey will be used as the basis for the decision of the chimes but that, “If it [the survey] is close and if people are divided, Mrs. Chase was going to come up with a plan to use the chimes, possibly switching the chimes every term.” The original bell tower, which was built in memory of the 85 Phillips Academy graduates who were killed during World War I, was completed in 1923. Starting in 1989, flaws in the initial construction of the bell tower forced the bells into silence. In the winter of 2005, reconstruction began on the new tower, with an effort to utilize as many pieces as possible from the old tower. As a result, 19 out of the 49 bells remain from the original tower. Also the same are the engravings in the granite base of the names of those killed in World War I. On May 3, 2006, the dedication of the carillon inside the bell tower took place at All-School Meeting. Carillons are a series of bells, often played with a keyboard, which can produce a wide variety of sound. Small bell towers have been around for a very long time, and some date back to the 13th century. One famous example is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which was built in the early 1200’s. These structures contained few bells, usually between one and four, and were more commonly used as an emergency signal or a fire. The chime that was chosen and that has been playing for almost 10 months was the Parsifal chime. This melody was first heard in the late 19th century and proposed for the chimes at both the Riverside Church in New York and the University of Chicago. It is also sometimes associated with Richard Wagner’s last “music-drama,” Parsifal. The chimes survey, which has so far has approximately 450 voters, has put Parsifal in the lead with 34% of the votes. In second place is the Westminster chime with 32% of the votes. When constructed in 1923, the Westminster chimes rang until the bells were no longer in working order. This pattern of notes is often the most well known for its prominent presence in England, including places like the House of Parliament in London and the Palace of Westminster. In PA’s voting contest, the Guilford chime is behind Westminster, with 26% of the vote. Like most other chimes, the Guilford originated in England. It was composed by George Wilkin for the Holy Trinity in Guilford, England in 1843. In last place is the Whittington chime, with 8% of the votes. This chime originated in the late 1300’s at the Church of St. Mary’s le Bow in London. Aiko Krishna ’09 said, “Personally, I think that the bell tower and the chimes are a kind of trademark of PA, and it is one that I really like.” Other students also seem to enjoy the presence of the bells and feel that the bell tower and chimes are an important part of their time here. Mr. Johnson said, “Having worked on projects concerning the tower for over a year now, I feel that the Bell Tower is a very important part of Andover life. Not only is the beautiful structure an icon for the school, but the sounds from the chime and carillon are part of daily life. He continued, “Sound has a powerful effect on memory and emotion– it can make you proud, sad, sentimental, or joyful. I think the chime is an important part of a person’s experience at Andover, whether a student or a visitor. It becomes part of the fabric of experiences one has when they are here, and is taken with them in their memory when they leave or graduate.”