Carrie Belle Raymond Memorial Carillon

-by Kathie Johnson

1928-1931 Fundraising, Instillation, & Dedication of First-Plymouth’s carillon

The Vision of Rev. Ben Wyland

“This carillon to be erected in our church by popular subscription naturally belongs to the whole community and advances the cause of culture and religion for all people regardless of creed or race.”  Rev. Ben Wyland

Rev. Ben Wyland devoted many hours to the carillon campaign through his letters expressing his vision of the carillon being a distinguished landmark to Nebraska and the first true carillon in Nebraska. Through his efforts, subscriptions to purchase a bell were received from First- Plymouth’s church classes, individuals, and organizations throughout Lincoln. Even though the economic condition of the country was in a depression, numerous people and organizations contributed toward the purchase of a bell. There are inscriptions on each of the bells that give recognition as to who gave the bell.

When First-Plymouth’s carillon committee began looking into purchasing a carillon, it was agreed that it would be purchased through John Taylor & Company in Loughborough, England. Through their research (which included going to various manufacturers) the committee determined that the United States did not have a bell foundry that manufactured bells with the quality of resonance that was found in the bells cast by John Taylor & Company.

At the time, there was a tariff duty on the bells coming from England and it would cost the church an additional $7,854.00. Rev. Ben Wyland was persistent that First-Plymouth should not have to pay the tariff since several catholic churches and education institutions had been given free entry to the United States. It was through his efforts; and, particularly, Senator George W. Norris of Lincoln, Nebraska, that an amendment was passed by Congress to allow the carillon to be on the “free list”. With the added savings, the initial order of thirty-five bells allowed the church to purchase an additional thirteen bells, making a total of forty-eight bells.  The largest bell, the “C” bell, weighed 4,592 pounds.  The thirteen smallest bells, known as “Tinkler” bells weighed 130 pounds.

An electro-pneumatic player was also purchased and installed at the base of the tower and connected electrically with the carillon. About two dozen rolls had been purchased that could play selections of hymns, patriotic, or classical music. Eventually, the electro-pneumatic player was removed because it was no longer able to function.

In a letter dated March 27, 1931, Taylor & Company notified Rev. Wyland, that the carillon had been loaded onto the s.s. “Laurentic” and would be sailing from Liverpool on March 28 for New York. The bells were to arrive April 6, 1931, and would be unloaded from the vessel on April 7th and placed on a train and transported by rail to Lincoln.  

The bells made their way to Nebraska in two box cars that were locked with the seal of the United States Customs Bureau.  When the bells arrived at the Burlington yards in Lincoln they were loaded on to trucks and taken to First-Plymouth where Mr. A. W. Pinkerton, Deputy Collector of Customs was to personally inspect them.  It took about a month to install the bells in the tower. 

Carrie Belle Raymond Memorial Carillon

Carrie Belle Raymond was an outstanding musician and professor at the University of Nebraska and had been organist and choir director at First-Plymouth for forty years. Carrie died in 1927. When First-Plymouth was building their new church, at the present location of 20th & D Street, it was proposed that with the myriad contributions she made promoting the music culture in Lincoln, that carillon be dedicated as the Carrie Belle Raymond Memorial Carillon. The largest bell was given in memory of Carrie Belle Raymond by The Woman’s Association of First Plymouth.

What Is A Carillon?  (pronounced care’-ill-on)

A true carillon is composed of at least 23 bells arranged chromatically. Carillon bell metal consists of 78 percent copper and 22 percent tin and is heated in a furnace above 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  The liquid is poured into a mold. The bell’s weight and shape determines its note and quality of tone.  Once cast, a bell is tuned. 

Installing the bells consists of bolting the bell to a steel bell frame in which the bell remains stationary during performance. It is the clapper that creates the sound when it touches the bell.

The performer of the carillon, called the carillonneur or carillonist, sits at a keyboard and with a slightly closed fist depresses the wooden levers. The motion of the lever is carried to a bell’s clapper by a wire.  The wire is attached to a transmission system that transfers the motion from the vertical wire to horizontal wire that pulls a bell’s clapper which is about two inches from the bell wall. The larger bells are played with the carillonneur’s feet similar to an organ pedalboard.

Dedication of the bells

Anton Brees, considered to be the finest carillonneur in the U.S. at the time, performed the dedication concert on Memorial Day, May 30, 1931. It is said there were about 25,000 in attendance.  Ten dedicatory concerts followed throughout the week with concerts dedicated to the ‘University of Nebraska’ on Baccalaureate Sunday; a concert dedicated ‘To All Children’; and a program dedicated to the ‘Pioneers of Nebraska’.

1988-1990 Renovation of the Carillon              

A three-year project to renovate the carillon was contracted through Olympic Carillon of Port Townsend, Washington.  The project was supervised by Timothy Hurd, President of Olympic Carillon Incorporated.

The cost of the renovation was $350,000 which included adding nine additional bells, replacing the bell framework, and placing the keyboard one floor higher in the tower so the carillonneur had better control and improved tone quality.  With the additional bells added the carillon went from forty-eight bells to fifty-seven bells.  The largest bell weighting over 5,000 pounds and the smallest bells under 30 pounds.

Because Taylor & Son Bell Foundry was defunct at the time of the renovation, Olympic Carillon contracted Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, England, to cast the additional bells that were purchased.  (Since our renovation Taylor & Son Bell Foundry has reopened their doors.)

The inaugural concert of the restored carillon was September 23, 1990, with the then current carillonneur, Ray Johnson; and, Timothy Hurd, who was also the National Carillonist of New Zealand.

Guild of Carillonneurs of North America

In 1993 First-Plymouth hosted the Guild of Carillonneurs of North America (GCNA) to showcase the newly renovated carillon. Carillonneurs from across the country came for workshops, meetings, with performances by carillonneurs who were part of First-Plymouth’s carillon history.

Upcoming 85th Anniversary of First-Plymouth’s carillon!

First-Plymouth is honored to have Dr. Tin-Shi Tam helping celebrate our carillon by presenting a carillon concert on Saturday, October 8, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. 

Dr. Tam is the Cownie Professor of Music an endowed carillon teaching position at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, and is a celebrated artist on carillon and organ.  She has given extensive recitals, workshops, masterclasses and lectures throughout the United States and internationally. 

Everyone is invited to this free concert as we celebrate our carillon and the celebration of our 150th anniversary of our congregation.