Bells installation an unforgettable experience


When installation of the bells at Salisbury University’s carillon began last week, William Church was there, enjoying what he called “an experience I will never forget.”

“I even made the climb to the top, including the ladder from the console room to the bell array. What an amazing week it was to see the quality work being done, and to see the bells being hoisted up and hung. I remembered my partner of 42 years. It was a powerful, emotional time,” said Church, who donated $2.4 million to pay for the bells, in honor and memory of his late partner, Samuel Brown.

“Music and the arts are a very important component of a well-balanced educational program. It is my hope that the bells will inspire all who hear them to excel in what they doing. That is why the bells are so very important to the Salisbury University campus,” Church told the Salisbury Independent this week.

Work began on SU’s new 48-bell carillon early last week. Located in the Patricia R. Guerrieri Academic Commons, it will contain two of the final bells cast by the British foundry that made the Liberty Bell. The bells will replace the automated, hourly chime that, for years, has been heard coming from Holloway Hall.

The Brown and Church Carillon will be one of fewer than 200 traditional carillons in the country.

Church said Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach, president of SU, had plans for a new library when Brown died.

“Our gifts to Salisbury University had been made anonymously, and Dr. Janet wanted to honor us in some way. She conceived the idea of a carillon to be added to the library structure, and to name it The Samuel R. Brown Memorial Carillon. I made the first modest donation to the fund at a memorial service for Sam in 2014.Many others donated to the fund and I made a larger sum available later,” Church said.

Although neither Church nor Brown studied at SU, Church said they had a close relationship with the school since 1996. They have been friends with Chuck and Martha Fulton for many years and wanted to follow their lead of helping the university.

“Sam was an accomplished musician; both of us loved music. The carillon was a natural way to honor Sam,” said Church, who lives in Greenville, Del., with his husband, John Alan Washburn.

When the bell instatement started, the console and infrastructure to support the new bells were lifted by crane.  On Wednesday, July 12, installation began. That, too, was done with a crane, said Richard Culver, director of public relations for SU.

The massive keyboard console, bell supports and, finally, the bells, were lifted into their 147-foot tower. Completion is expected to be in about three weeks. Once it’s finished, Church said he’ll be there to hear them.

“Try and keep me away,” he said.

The first truckload of bells arrived at SU on July 10 and included the two biggest. The larger one weighs nearly 2.5 tons and is about 5 feet high and 60 inches across. It was cast by London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry, creator of the original Liberty Bell.

That foundry closed this year after more than five centuries, Culver said.

The remaining 46 bells were cast by Meeks, Watson & Co. of Georgetown, Ohio, the largest bell foundry in the country.  Its patriarch, Richard Watson, now in his 70s, is believed to be the nation’s only remaining carillon bell tuner.

At 147 feet high, the bell tower is the tallest structure not only on campus but also in Wicomico County. A special crane had to be used, Culver said.

The impressive, four-story Guerrieri Academic Commons opened in the fall, promising to be a state-of-the-art centerpiece for the campus and community. The $117 million structure was dedicated by Guerrieri family members and Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach, president of SU.

The 221,037-square-foot building is three times the size of the university’s Teacher Education and Technology Center, later renamed for Delegate Norman Conway, and houses the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture.

Twelve classrooms are in GAC, 18 group study rooms and 418 seats in the assembly hall.

GAC has 32,000 square feet of green roof space, equal to half a football field, and is planted with a low ground cover, so that rainwater that normally collects oils and sediment from rooftops is naturally filtered before falling to the ground and running into sewers.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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