UI musical tradition rings on

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Jane Louis

Every weekday at 12:50 p.m., a concert of chimes rings out from the Altgeld Hall Tower. Students on the Quad enjoy its songs, but most have yet to discover the hidden treasures of the University of Illinois Chime.

Sue Wood, chimesmaster of the University Chime, has been playing the chimes since 1971. Playing the chimes is not hard, she said, and it is even easier if the player can read sheet music.

“A lot of people come up and try it out once or twice out of curiosity,” she said.

Guests and visitors are welcome in the Chime Tower, 323 Altgeld Hall, Wood said. The Tower is open on weekdays from 12:30 to 1 p.m. for tours.

“People are permitted to climb to the bell chamber,” she said, adding that it is 65 feet above the playing room, most of which is straight up a rung ladder.

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The University Chime has been entertaining students, staff and visitors to the University since 1920. Consisting of 15 bells, the chime plays the “Westminster Chime” every hour in addition to the daily 12:50 concert.

“Because we only have 15 bells, we mainly play melody or simple harmonies,” Wood said.

The bells were a gift from the classes of 1914-1921 and the U.S. School of Military Aeronautics. Initially, the classes only raised enough money for 11 bells, but when it was discovered that two more bells were needed to play “Illinois Loyalty,” the United States School of Military Aeronautics donated money from their World War I memorial fund. The second-largest bell is dedicated to that fund, Wood said. The largest bell is dedicated to Dr. Edmund Janes James, University President from 1904 to 1920, and the third-largest bell is dedicated to the classes of 1914-1921.

The bells are played by a pump handle keyboard, according to Wood. The larger bells are played with foot pedals.

“It’s not really a difficult thing to get used to,” she said.

Currently, funds are being raised to purchase and install a 49-bell carillon on campus, which would be played in coordination with the bells at Altgeld, according to Wood.ÿThe carillon, a dream of Chimesmaster Emeritus Albert E. Marien, would eliminate the limitations of the 15-bell University Chime and allow a greater range of musical selections to be played on campus.

Wood and her fellow chimesplayers, Chris Marx, associate chimesmaster, and Jethro Lam, graduate student, play the daily 12:50 concert as well as concerts for special events.

A concert is held in honor of graduation day, Quad Day, University Founder’s Day and Valentine’s Day, in addition to any other special occasion that may arise, such as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.

“We’ll play special (concerts) on days that are appropriate,” Wood said.

Most students say they enjoy the chimes and would miss them if they were gone.

“I like to hear when the ‘Alma Mater’ is played on the bells,” Whitney Hubbard, freshman in FAA, said, adding that she would like to ring them herself someday.

For other students, like Liz Martin, junior in FAA, although they think the music is pleasant, the bells serve a more practical purpose.

“They let me know when I’m late for class,” she said.