2007-05-05

Inside the Carillon

It was cool and wet out this morning. but I still decided to head out to Stone Mountain to hear Ms. Mabel play the carillon at noon.

(this picture is from the top of the mountain taken a few months ago)
For those of you not familiar with the Stone Mountain Carillon, the instrument was built by Schulmerich Carillons in Sellersville, PA for the Coca-Cola Pavilion 1964 World's Fair in New York. At 610 bells it was the largest instrument of its kind. After the fair Coca-Cola moved the instrument to Georgia's Stone Mountain Park. By this time 610 bells wasn't the largest any more so a few more ranks were added during the move putting it at 732 bells.After Ms. Mabel played I dropped by the console to say hello and give her dog Max a few scratches. It turns out that Max wasn't here today because we had guests. The guests were from Schulmerich. One from HQ up in PA and the other is the "local" field engineer who currently resides down in Florida. They were here for a checkup to assess how the instrument is doing and plan any corrective actions. I was in for a treat as the field engineer and his son took me down to the vault underneath the console to see how it all worked.



The Carillon resides in 9 equipment cabinets in a climate-control room underneath the console. The original cabinets were mounted to the wall. The current arrangement seems to give them more space and make it easier to work on the instrument.

This is the digital control panel. It controls the hourly chimes and the daily "recorded" performances for the carillon when Ms. Mabel isn't playing live. There is a recorder up on top of the console that accepts a memory card of sorts where performances can be recorded. They can then be loaded in and programed for playback down here.


Here is rack #5 all opened up. These are the bells for the harp, celesta and quadra bell sounds. The lower notes (longer bars) are at the top and they get higher (shorter bars) as they go down.

The bell's bars have 3 solenoid controlled strikers under each one. I presume that's how they get three different bell sounds out of the same bar in this unit. Each bar has an electromagnetic pickup along the back (similar to guitar pickups underneath the strings.) Each pickup then runs to a preamp/mixer.



All the various preamps run to a master mixer where each one of the sets of sounds can be finely controlled to mix with the others when played together.



Finally the sound goes through power amplifiers (I counted at least 6 of them) and out to the tower by the lake.


Mabel Sansing Sharp at the Console

It was quite a treat to be able to be in there while they had things opened up. It's not like the equipment cabinets had doors or easy access to what's inside. I just lucked out on visiting on the right day. One of these days I plan to put up a web page or two detailing the history of this instrument. It deserves a little more than the 3 lines of text the park devotes to it on their web site.

Further Reading:



11 comments:

lois said...

Good thing you take your camera everywhere...
Maybe we can't go inside the Hoover Dam anymore, but I guess the carillon isn't considered a terrorist target just yet.

RD in Kennesaw said...

It's a shame that the park's official site is so meager and hard to find. At the least they should have the specification (list of bell voices). Better would be not only the specification, but a small audio clip of what each voice sounds like. Then a list of all past carillonneurs, their pictures and their dates. Finally, lots of pictures of the instrument. Maybe you can do it, grantbob.

grantbob said...

Thanks rd,

I've talked with Mabel about putting up a few pages with more details. I just haven't had the time lately.I hadn't thought about putting samples up of each voice.. that might not be too hard. I'll try to look in to that soon. Maybe if I get enough on the blog eventually I'll make a web site about it all.

pw999 said...

Bye the way...
The Schulmerich Carillons factory is located in Sellersville, PA., not "Sellers". Thank you for the pictures and info.

grantbob said...

Fixed. Thanks!

Corax said...

I thought a carillon was a set of bells which were struck by hitting a peg with your fist. I guess just anything that sounds like a carillon can be called a carillon now, even if it's an electronic or electronically amplified instrument. Might as well put a set of keyboards and synthesizers in there.

grantbob said...

They are bells. They are just very small and not very loud. Thus the need for electronic amplification. Also not sure what your definition of "now" is.

Patsy aka PJ said...

Thank you for the great information! I was at the Carillon just today and Ms Mabel is still going strong. I couldn't explain to my daughter or husband WHY the bells were underground but you and Mable have set them and me straight!

J.M. said...

very nice carillon. Schulmerich makes great music for bells. I love it when churches play their churchbells. Sadly, alot of churches had gotten changed to Yale Korean, and the churchbells no longer play as they don'y utilize bells within their services. I've seen a documentry on the Seattle World's fair and heard a sample of the Schulmerich carillon being played. I know there's a lp record of the songs played on the carillon during the fair, but I would love to purchase a Cd or digital download of the songs for my classic Ipod.

Kevin Sims said...

There are uploads of the Seattle Space Needle Carillon Americana off that LP on YouTube. Also there are downloads on iTunes of John Klein on similar Americanas, as well as several of cast bronze bell carillons.

BillB said...

I really enjoyed finding this blog with the technical details. I discovered theatre organist Herbie Koch played this Carillon, and maybe from the beginning. He had played movie theatre organs in England, and became the Carillon artist after no longer playing the WHAS studio Kilgen Theatre pipe organ. The present listed artist may not be playing this instrument any longer, but I have no idea.