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Published: Thursday, 3/23/2006

Bells and chimes will sound again from UT's campus

BY KARAMAGI RUJUMBA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A short-circuit shut down the carillon in University Hall's bell tower in January. A short-circuit shut down the carillon in University Hall's bell tower in January.
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Stroll the campus of any college or university with a functional bell tower, and you likely will hear the sounds of august chimes, hollow-sounding bell tolls, and a variety of tunes at different intervals.

The University of Toledo is no different.

But a short-circuit that caused hiccups in an electromechanical carillon system of University Hall's bell tower saw the signature Gothic structure that towers over UT's Bancroft campus fall silent in January.

"It has not been operating well, and when it does play, it sounds so bad that we decided it was better to not have it sound at all," said Mark Walker, UT's curator of the carillon.

He said that the system, which can often be heard playing the Westminster melody on campus and by residents of the Bancroft Street corridor every half-hour was silenced temporarily because it showed obvious signs of wear and tear.

A relatively simple machine, the current carillon was installed in UT's bell tower in 1986 and also plays a variety of pre-recorded songs at 11:50 a.m., 5 p.m., and 7:15 p.m.

It is made up of six bronze rods that are the bell-tone generators. They are triggered by an electric current, a small hammer, and a thin wire to produce vibrations of sound that is amplified and played through speakers creating the sound and impression of a heavy-cast-bell toll.

"This instrument is 20 years old, and we knew that we would need to replace it in a few years because most of these systems are now digital," said Mr. Walker, 50, a computer and graphic design artist whose interest in carillons and bell music dates back to his childhood.

Oddly, Mr. Walker's desire for a state-of-the-art digital carillon system at UT will soon become a reality mostly because of the generosity of an alumnus who enjoys the nostalgia of hearing the bell tolls of UT's older analog carillon.

When Robert Ossege, 72, was a boy growing up in Toledo's Old Orchard neighborhood - living three blocks from UT - he often kept time by the school's clock and bell tower.

"I have great memories of those days when I lived in the area. I lived right by the school and I enjoyed hearing that bell ring every time, " Mr. Ossege said.

A 1957 UT graduate, Mr. Ossege donated $20,000 to the university, which will be used to purchase a new $31,500 digital carillon.

In addition to playing bell-tone generated chimes and prerecorded music, the new one, which will be installed in the bell tower next month, will quadruple the capacity of its predecessors, Mr. Walker said.

"We will be able to play the Westminster melody, recorded songs, and the new one will also have a keyboard and so we will be able to play our own songs," he said.

The new carillon, which should be completely installed by the end of May, was officially named the Ossege-Snyder carillon by the UT board of trustees in February, said Ellen Ingram, director of UT corporate and foundation relations.

Ms. Ingram said the university also honored the Snyder family for its contributions to the school's carillon system.

UT's 201-foot-high University Hall was completed in 1931 and stood silent for 10 years until its first chimes were dedicated.

Contact Karamagi Rujumba at:

krujumba@theblade.com or

419-724-6064.



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