All the campus bells are ringing

Monte Atkinson, professor of music and faculty trustee at Mesa State College, plays a Christmas carol on the keyboard part of the new carillon. The mobile keyboard is in the choir room of the Moss Performing Arts Center, where a computer is housed that runs the carillon.

The sound of construction has become the anthem most associated with Mesa State College in recent years.

But Mesa State Music Professor and Faculty Trustee Monte Atkinson hopes the college soon will become better known for the sound of bells on campus.

The final component of the college’s new carillon arrived this week. Pronounced care-ill-on, the system allows the school to pipe chimes and 3,000 pop, hymn and theme songs, including baseball tunes for JUCO and patriotic songs for Independence Day, played on bells through speakers atop the College Center’s new clock tower, which is on the west side of the building in the center of campus.

The electronic system may sound like bells, but no actual bells hang in the clock tower. Instead, the sound is piped to the tower’s speakers through a cable fiber line extending from the tower to a computer in the Moss Performing Arts Center that acts as the “brain” of the system.

Everything played on the system comes from a memory card of sounds inserted into the computer or is played on a keyboard located in the choir room at Moss Performing Arts Center.

The carillon has worked in a limited capacity since mid- October, chiming every hour on the hour during the school day and at noon only on Saturday and Sunday.

Beginning this weekend, the carillon will chime every hour between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. seven days a week. Five minutes of various songs will play at 11:55 a.m.

The system’s keyboard is mobile and can be heard via loudspeakers inside a handful of rooms in Moss if bells are needed during a performance.

It can also play in a lounge and the ballroom in the College Center and hook up to an outlet outside the College Center for outdoor performances.

Atkinson said he hopes to have faculty carillon concerts a couple of times each spring and a couple of times each fall.

Although the sound is louder north and south of the clock tower than east and west, the carillon can be heard two or three blocks west of the main campus, something Atkinson said neighbors haven’t complained much about. Students and staff haven’t griped much, unless the bells go off during class, although some are having growing pains with the new tunes.

“One student told me her roommate said, ‘If I wanted to go to a monastery, I would have,’ ” Atkinson said.

The original purpose of carillons was to play sacred music, so the student wasn’t far off in her thinking, but it’s also a common fixture on some of the world’s more prestigious college campuses, including Harvard and Notre Dame and, closer by, the University of Denver and Brigham Young University.

Atkinson said he has wanted to bring a carillon to Mesa State since arriving in the Grand Valley in 1995 in order to give the college a “dignified” musical feature he saw as fitting of the institution.

“It’s just a part that was missing. Now we have it,” he said.


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