Recommendations on Electronic Carillon/Chime Systems
  • bjerabek
    Posts: 63
    I'm wondering if anyone has had experience having an electronic carillon system installed at a church and if they can recommend any particular company.

    I want a system that will play the Angelus and also hymns at different times of the day (e.g. when the kids are arriving for school). Having a real bell tower with real bells is simply not in the cards in the foreseeable future.

    My thanks to anyone who can help me to sort through the various companies that are out there.

    Fr. B. Jerabek
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,669
    While I understand you're asking about a specific thing you're looking for... you're asking in a forum that has a lot of people who will not suggest something that is either not the ideal or forbidden by church documents issued in the 1950s.

    You could look into used church bells for around the same price as an electronic carillon system.

    An example:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-c1835-Andrew-Meneely-Bronze-Church-Bell/171860894980?_trksid=p2047675.c100009.m1982&_trkparms=aid=777000&algo=ABA.MBE&ao=1&asc=32475&meid=a3ff869e6d124cb886197712e4770214&pid=100009&rk=1&rkt=1&sd=251627979563

    While this won't ring itself at various points during the day, your staff and school children could have different ringing tasks assigned to them.

    I don't know enough about bells to recommend specific ones, but there seem to be a lot of used church bells for sale. While the electronic thing might be the easiest and most stress-free option, a REAL BELL is something that is much more ideal, especially for liturgical use.
  • bjerabek
    Posts: 63
    I didn't realize that electronic bell systems (that play sound outside the church, not during Mass) were forbidden by documents since the 1950s -- would love a reference for this.

    Again, real bells are not a possibility.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,669
    The document and quote most people will cite is found in this post. The church has seemingly been silent on this point since 1958 - so whether or not this forbidding is still "in force" is certainly something that can be debated...

    http://www.adoremus.org/1958Intro-sac-mus.html

    "91. Every effort should be made to furnish all churches, public and semi-public oratories with at least one or two bells, even though they are small. But it is strictly forbidden to substitute any kind of machine or instrument which merely imitates or amplifies the sound of bells mechanically or automatically. Such machines may be used, however, as a carillon in accordance with what has been said above."
  • bjerabek
    Posts: 63
    The church was built in 1952 and has a little belfry with one real bell in it -- which we ring before Sunday and school Masses.

    The addition (not substitution) of an electronic system, then, does not go against this former legislation, in our situation. If it is indeed still binding (which I tend to doubt, but I'd have to study that more).
  • bjerabek
    Posts: 63
    A picture of our """belltower""" is attached (which, incidentally, is on the side of the church that faces the highway, not the neighborhood).image
    849 x 497 - 788K
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,418
    Why in the world would you spend waste money on an electronic bell doohickey when you already have a real bell?
  • Doohickey!
    How colourful!
    A synonym for simulacrum?
    Thanked by 2Ben Yanke CHGiffen
  • JonLaird
    Posts: 223
    Why in the world would you spend waste money on an electronic bell doohickey when you already have a real bell?

    Father's single bell is unlikely to possess the capabilities he seeks:
    I want a system that will play the Angelus and also hymns at different times of the day

    Why do we insist on trying to sell Father something he explicitly said he is not looking for?

    Unless, of course, Mr. Meloche has a variety of recto tono hymn tunes which he could recommend.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,442
    It should be understood that Musicam Sacram's provision on bells is in the context of their use for the sacred liturgy; in the previous section, it excludes the use of carillons for liturgy, and that explains why it permits the use of electronic carillons.
    Thanked by 2bjerabek chonak
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,471
    I worked at a church a few years ago that had a nice set of digital bells from Maas-Rowe Carillons. I can't tell you anything about pricing, but you can check their website. They seem to have a good reputation.

    At my current parish, we had to have additional bells cast in The Netherlands instead of going digital. The tower was the highest point in the area, and subject to lightning strikes, although lightning rods were in place. The insurance company wouldn't insure a digital carillon. Even with real bells, lightning fried a $5,000. circuit board - insured, of course. Insurance is a must have for carillons, digital or real.
    Thanked by 1bjerabek
  • Many years ago, when I was a student at the University of Houston, a wealthy dowager donated a carillon to the university, situated in the tower atop M.D. Anderson Library. Except that it wasn't a carillon. It was a carillon simulacrum, made by (I really hate to mention the name) the Schulmerich Company. I was chosen to travel to Princeton, N.J., to learn how to play this instrument. The good part is that I had a wonderful week in Princeton, stayed at Westminster Choir College, and learnt a great deal about bells, both continental carillons and English peals. However, the Schulmerich people did not endear themselves to me. First of all, I deeply resented that they were, in a word, fake. But, even worse, they chortled with glee that they had put half a dozen bell founders out of business. I would never, ever, recommend them or any of their fellow simulacrum manufacturers to anyone for any reason. Like organ simulacra, the entire business is built on deceit and falsehood. As I would take a few ranks of real organ over many 'ranks' of a simulacrum any day, I would, likewise, be happy with my one or two real bells and shudder at the thought of fakes. I learnt much that week that has served me well. I also learnt a lot about just how fake fakes are... and how fake they really sound. It's really bizarre driving by these churches who have these loud speakers blaring out what would be the sounds of bells, but there is no evidence of campanille or belfry to house them - just some amplifiers tucked away somewhere.

    I think that Fr Jerabek's 'little belfry with one real bell in it' is utterly charming, beautiful, and admirably real.... and honest. What more could one want?
  • bjerabek
    Posts: 63
    Well, with respect for your experience and feelings about simulacra vs. the real thing, I could want a digital carillon system.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,669
    We understand what you want, but I'm not sure there are many experts in the field of digital carillon systems here on the board to offer you sound advice... this is a board that is mostly about Gregorian chant and sacred music... many of us can't operate the VCR.

    Having said that, the last church I worked at that used a digital carillon for hymns was just about the worst thing I've ever heard. The hymns would play out at 3 points during the day and the speakers, which were poorly maintained and were probably full of pigeon.. stuff... would have a static-ish quality. The organ sounded like it was being played by a pianist who didn't believe in block chords and arpeggioed everything. I knew people who lived in the neighborhood around the church that were very turned off by the loud hymn playing several times per day... these were Catholics and they weren't necessarily offended by the fact that there were hymns, but by how bad they sounded.

    I'm sure technology has come along way since then (the system was installed about 20 years ago), but whenever I hear people bring up such systems, that's all I can think about.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Reval
  • bjerabek
    Posts: 63
    Thank you, matthewj. I understand that you and others here have had a bad experience or are against things like this. But I thought that there might be some others who, though not experts, yet might have been involved in a project for installing one such system.

    (For example, the music director in my first parish assignment was in charge of maintaining the digital carillon and changing out the seasonal hymns that it played – it's reasonable to think that she might have also been involved in getting it installed.)

    So maybe we can leave it there and see if someone with experience concerning my particular request ends up commenting. Thanks again!

    PS - I enjoyed the post about your recto-tonal propers; maybe I'll buy a few copies for some priests I know.

    PPS - I appreciate the comment from CharlesW concerning Maas-Rowe carillons.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,787
    Jon Laird wisely asked:
    Why do we insist on trying to sell Father something he explicitly said he is not looking for?


    I'm glad I gave Fr. an advance warning that some of the comments would be unhelpful responses from purists.

    Now that we have established that:
    (1) The church already has one real bell, thereby meeting the directive in 1958 "De musica sacra";
    (2) The building cannot physically accommodate a set of real bells;
    (3) and electronic carillons are permitted...

    It would be such a fine thing if further comments could be focused on answering Fr.'s question.

    Thanked by 3bjerabek Liam Gavin
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,418
    I could want a digital carillon system.


    You could. But you shouldn't.

    Unless you also want polyester vestments, silk flowers around your (plastic) altar, battery operated votive candles, shag carpet in your sanctuary, glow-in-the dark rosary beads, semi-transparent altar server bath robes, mass produced sweat shop kitsch statues, and digitally printed icons.

    Yes, Father, I know --- this is "unhelpful" --- but, please.

    Listen to the people here who have dedicated their careers to maintaining beauty within the rites of the Church: there is nothing to be gained by adding artificiality to what you already have. No one needs to have hymn tunes played on a digital bell synthesizer hooked up to a loud speaker bolted to your roof. You can ring the Angelus on your single bell, and it will be a joyful sound, fitting of praise to the Lord. A digitial approximation will only be so much clanging noise, even if it can play all the notes of NUN DUNKET ALLE GOTT.

    Whatever money this affront to good taste reality will cost you, that money would be better spent on anything at all. Feed the poor. Or have your bathrooms deep cleaned. Or buy fresh cut altar flowers for the next year. Or find someone in your parish without insurance who has a looming medical bill they can't afford to pay. Or replace the shag carpet with tile. Or give the children's classrooms a fresh coat of paint.

    [Admin note: Adam, this comment is the seventh contra response. Surely by now they have reached the point where they constitute nagging.]



    [RESPONSE TO ADMIN]

    YES. True.

    But, no one had actually offered a real response (including me) other than "don't." I felt I had to express why I, and so many others, are so strongly opposed. We don't come to these opinions out of effete liturgical elitism or slavish adherence to outdated rules. We care about what happens in the Church.

    We live in a world where we can make up reality whenever we feel like. A man can declare himself to be a "woman," and everyone just goes along with it and say, "Yes, of course she is."

    The Church goes on and on about how bad and wrong that sort of thing is, but its clerics won't uniformly take a stand on all the other deviations from reality that the peddlers of liturgical kitsch foist on us.

    A synthesizer is not an organ. Polyester is not a flower. A digital print is not an icon. A battery operated LED is not a candle.

    A computer with a loud speaker is not a bell.

    We have to stop pretending that this sort of thing doesn't matter. It does matter. Truth always matters. Honesty always matters. Authenticity always matters.

    It doesn't matter if it sounds good, or if no one would notice. It's a lie.

    FATHER: Don't waste precious money on a lie, and then bolt it to the side of your building.




  • Liam
    Posts: 4,442
    "there is nothing to be gained by adding artificiality to what you already have."

    That is, frankly, not beyond reasonable dispute. I have heard good or reasonable electronic carillons - in my own community, there are two (one better than the other), which can be pleasantly heard sounding off the hillsides of our municipality for a mile or so at certain hours of the day; I have heard crappy ones (that's how I can tell the difference). I couldn't tell you the technical specs or makers...

    And I loves me a peel of real bells, mind you, and think that a Catholic church without at least one proper bell is in a state of undress, as it were.

    One of the joys of a place I used to live - Cambridge, MA - was that in Old Town Cambridge (aka the area around Harvard), there are many towers (some secular) with working real bells, and on festive occasions it's quite the thing to hear them all sounding off at the same time. It's not pre-revolutionary Moscow, nor is it Venice, but it's a lot more than can be said of most other American city centers.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,418
    A digital synthesizer is not a pipe organ.

    Fixed.
    Thanked by 1Ben Yanke
  • Call Jeff at Chimemasters. They have a fine digital carillon and also restore and sell cast bells and carillons, as well as new ones. They purchased three swinging bells for the last church I was at from a church, shipped them to Holland where they were refurbished and then installed them in the church.

    They actually found medium size carillon, mechanical action for us for the same price but the donor wanted three swinging bells and money talks.

    Since they can sell digital or cast, you are safe from craziness.

    Life sucks at times...

    Tell Jeff I said hello!
    Thanked by 2chonak bjerabek
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,471

    PPS - I appreciate the comment from CharlesW concerning Maas-Rowe carillons.


    My experience with Maas-Rowe has been good. It was also helpful to have a local company that services most of the carillons in the city. This guy is really good at keeping them working properly. I would think the quality of service in your area would be something to consider.

    I hope Jackson and Adam never need pacemakers, or other life-saving "simulacra." They will be in deep doodie if they do. LOL.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,418
    I hope Jackson and Adam never need pacemakers, or other life-saving "simulacra." They will be in deep doodie if they do. LOL.


    If a fake bell or a fake organ were required in order to keep a church alive, I would be glad to install it.

    A more appropriate anatomical metaphor would be tattooed eyeliner and lip injections.
    Thanked by 1Reval
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,471
    A more appropriate anatomical metaphor would be tattooed eyeliner and lip injections.


    You can see that at any mass in the U.S. LOL.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,669
    oh my.
  • Essentially to follow somewhat outdated rules, you want to pay a sexton to be at the church at 6 AM, Noon and 6 PM to ring the angelus by pulling the rope.

    (St. Paul's where I grew up had a custodian do this. Every day. And also for weddings and funerals and Sunday mass.)

    YOU SHOULD NOT ELECTRIFY THE CHURCH BELLS. IT IS VERBOTEN!

    YOU SHOULD ONLY TELL TIME BY LOOKING AT YOUR WRIST SUNDIAL.
  • A more appropriate anatomical metaphor would be tattooed eyeliner and lip injections.

    You can see that at any mass in the U.S. LOL.


    Wow, your celebrant has them too?
    Thanked by 1Reval
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    With all due respect, carillons are extra, a luxury. If you have a bell, I'd suggest you use it and use it well, and not try and add something that is not necessary in a less than ideal way.

    As Adam said, we really ought to keep the quality of arts as high as possible.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,418
    sexton...pulling the rope


    but now ROBOTS HAVE TAKEN AWAY HIS JOB
    Thanked by 1Ben Yanke
  • With no respect at all, so is heat and air conditioning.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,471
    From the posted picture, a new tower would be needed for real bells - a major expense possibly beyond the means of the parish.

    YOU SHOULD ONLY TELL TIME BY LOOKING AT YOUR WRIST SUNDIAL.


    Outright heresy! Water clocks were instituted by God himself for Christians of the True Faith. Wrist sundials are works of the evil one!
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    With no respect at all, so is heat and air conditioning.


    Exactly. So they shouldn't be put in if they detract from the worship of God. However, most of the time, they don't...
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,787
    With all due respect, carillons are extra, a luxury.

    Evangelization through beauty is not a luxury, even if it's delivered in a less than ideal manner.

  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,436
    wondering if anyone has had experience
    As Charles says, quality of service in your area is a crucial consideration. A couple of jobs ago my duties included resetting a Schumerich carillon clock c. 1970 to/from daylight savings time. This involved reading a big manual and shuffling punchcards into the correct order. Finally it went off making inopportune ice-cream truck noises during Holy Week, and I pulled the power cord. As far as I know no one has been able to reboot since.

    Better count this in the "con" column.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,471
    Keep in mind that in the digital/real dispute that real is not always superior. We added 5 Dutch bells approximately 10 years ago that sound wonderful. The 1700-pound original bell installed in the 1920s has always sounded flat. The same with organs. There are some horrid sounding pipe instruments out there, often more the fault of the building than the instrument. Whether or not "real" is better often depends on placement, quality of manufacture, and maintenance.
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,791
    Jackson, I hope that, when you were in Princeton, you had an opportunity to hear, see, or otherwise experience Princeton University's 67-bell Carillon in Cleveland Tower at the Graduate College. While a graduate student there, I lived at the GC and greatly enjoyed the weekly Sunday afternoon recitals on the Carillon, as well as the friendship and sage guidance by Julian Bigelow, the university's carillonneur, who maintained and oversaw the upgrade of the carillon into one of the world's outstanding instruments.

    https://vimeo.com/102530958
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Many thanks for this, Chuck! What a delicious advertisement for truth.
    Actually, I did not have the experience of Princeton's carillon. That may have been by deliberate design of our Schulmerich hosts.
    I have, though, presided over a 24-bell Petit and Fritsen at Houston's historic Trinity Lutheran Church, where I was choirmaster for many years. People who have the actual, real, sounds of real instruments in their heads never will be heard to say that simulacra sound 'like' the real thing. They don't. And the immutable laws of physics governing sound source and sound production make it impossible for them to do so.

    We were housed at Westminster Choir College, where I was able regularly to practice on the Aelolian-Skinner in the chapel. Actually, I had an organ jury to play for when I got back to Houston and had come away without my music. Somehow I was able mentally to reconstruct Bach's great A-minor fugue (which I had only partially memorised). I played it perfectly for my professor on returning to Houston. He had been worried to death because I had left my music on the organ at UofH.

    We have several carillons in Houston. One at Trinity Lutheran, and its twin at St Mary's Seminary, plus one at St John the Divine, and one at St Vincent de Paul. Also, we have maybe three or four English peals of bells, most notably at St Thomas' Episcopal. Our forum member Steve Collins is an avid change ringer.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • henry
    Posts: 223
    Call Steve Doerger at Verdin Bell Co. in Cincinnati Ohio. Not pushy and very knowledgeable.
    Thanked by 1bjerabek
  • Reverend Father,


    There's a very famous painting called "The Angelus", if I recall correctly. The bell to announce the angelus would be a single bell, just as you already have.

    I believe that there is a society of Campanologists -- there may be more than one, or chapters of a national or international organization. If you were to contact such an organization, you might find that there is a carillon looking for a new home because of closure, realignment or something similar, or that there is an organization which provides scholarships or grants or..... I think the idea is clear enough.

    http://ringingfoundation.com/

    is the best I can find quickly.



    I hope this is helpful.

    God bless,

    Chris

    NOTE TO ADMIN: I managed to answer Father's question without once saying "you shouldn't use a simulacrum".
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I believe the bell control system at my church is made by Schulmerich. We have four real bells, with an electronic control system.

    I have found their service department to be slow but friendly and effective. I would not rule them out as possible vendors.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,066
    The visits by techs are going to run about $300-500/yr, Father. We had this from Verdin when I was in St. Louis, and that was just for the control system maintenance (there were 4 real bells).

    I'd be in touch with Fred Teardo here in Birmingham. Advent has about the only decent set of electronic bells in the city, and one of the few I've ever heard that is nice.

    I'd vote NOT for the hymns, though: one of the charming things is when the carillon/change bells play their own theme. There's a great tradition of that at French churches, with organ pieces written on the actual carillon themes.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,436
    There is much more profanity in America on Sunday than in all the other six days of the week put together, and it is of a more bitter and malignant character than the week-day profanity, too. It is produced by the cracked-pot clangor of the cheap church bells.
    A digression on churchbells from Twain's A Tramp Abroad.
  • This really is not meant as a slap to anyone, but for any interested in hearing what a carillon actually sounds like and watching that technological marvel being played, there are plenty of examples to be seen and heard by Googling 'carillons youtube'. Ditto English change ringing. Holland is particularly noted for its carillons. Check out Amsterdam, one of a number of European cities that employ official civic carilloneurs.

    Many churches in the US have one or two, maybe even three or four bells, though newer churches are less apt to have any at all. However, while carillons, tuned ranges of bells that actually play music by means of a keyboard and tracker mechanism, are found here and there in the US, they are relatively unusual in this country. Ditto English peals of bells, tuned ranges of bells that are played by a team in complex mathematical permutations (changes) of the number of bells in the peal. Change ringing is rather a national sport in Britain where inumerable peals of bells and change ringing teams abound.

    For a real treat, and perhaps an eye-opener for many, do google this experience.
  • Jackson,

    For change ringing, you need All Creatures Great and Small

    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 377
    This is slightly off-topic, sorry, but for anyone visiting Aberdeen, Scotland, the 'Mither Kirk' of St Nicholas has the largest carillon in the UK. It has 48 bells, and is played each Sunday by Ronald Leith, the organist of the RC cathedral, St Mary's.
    You can hear and see it (though not played by Ronald) at
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjKRaMPhB-o
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,478
    I'll add another, if I may (please don't judge me on their choice of tune!):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlxfK4Rd31s