Berkeley Carillon

Berkeley Carillon

The Class of 1928 Carillon, or Berkeley Carillon, is a carillon at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. It originated as a twelve bell chime, cast in 1915 by the John Taylor foundry of Loughborough, England. The original bells were a gift of Jane K. Sather, who also gave the university the Sather Tower (in which the bells were housed), Sather Gate (named for her husband Peder Sather), and endowed chairs in History and Classics. The original bells were installed in 1917 and played for the first time on November 3, 1917. The delay between the founding and the installation of the bells was caused by World War II, as well as the US Customs Service in San Francisco. It was soon discovered that these twelve bells were insufficient to play many popular tunes, including the national anthem. During the following decades there were a number of discussions about enlarging the instrument, but nothing came of this need.

In 1978, the Class of 1928 decided, as a fiftieth anniversary gift to the university, to add some bells. They began a campaign among their members, hoping to raise around $45,000 for a few new bells. In several days they managed to raise over $150,000 and decided at that point to enlarge the chime to a full carillon of forty-eight bells. Bids were sought, and the Paccard foundry of Annecy, France, was awarded the contract. The new Class of 1928 Carillon, which incorporated the original twelve bells, was installed and inaugurated in 1979. An article about the new instrument in the "Bulletin of The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America" ended by suggesting that perhaps another class might at some future date consider adding additional bells and making this concert carillon into a grand carillon.

In 1983, Jerry Chambers, a wealthy member of the class of 1928, and his wife Evelyn (class of 1932 and honorary member of the class of 1928), along with the class of 1928, gave a handsome endowment for the carillon. These funds were used to enlarge the instrument to a fully chromatic, five-octave instrument beginning with low G, renovation of two floors of Sather Tower for two practice keyboards, a campanology collection, and a studio for the University Carillonist. In addition, the Chambers Carillon funds, which is the sole source of support for the carillon program at Berkeley, endowed a full-time position for the University Carillonist (one of only five full-time positions in North America), and a carillon festival to be held every five years honoring the Class of 1928, counting from that year.

As of 2008, the carillon program is one of the most active in the world. It offers an instructional program which attracts about thirty students each semester, a performance program of seventeen ten-minute recitals and one forty-five minute recital each week. There is additionally a professional staff of four artist performers, and a part-time maintenance person. The carillon program remains fully funded by the generous endowment of Jerry and Evelyn Chambers.

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