- Harkness Tower: 216 feet, 284 steps to the roof
- The Carillon: 54 bells, pitched in B
- Total Weight: 43 tons
- Age of Bells: 10 bells were cast in 1921, the remainder in 1964
- Lowest bell: F♯ concert pitch, 13,400 pounds
- Highest bell: B concert pitch, 26 pounds
What is a carillon?
A carillon is a musical instrument composed of at least 23 bells, tuned in chromatic sequence. It is played from a console that resembles a simple organ, with batons (for the hands) and pedals (for the feet). These keys move the clappers (metal ball) that strike and sound the bells, which remain stationary. This set-up allows the carillonneur to play with great dynamic expression. For more information, see a brief history and technical discussion on the GCNA website.
The Yale Memorial Carillon
Yale's 54-bell carillon was cast by John Taylor Bellfoundry in Loughborough, England. The instrument is fully chromatic from G (concert F♯) to C. Pedals range from G to B♭. The playing cabin is accessible by stairs and is located about halfway up the tower. We have two practice consoles in Harkness Tower: the original by John Taylor & Co in 1964 and one by Meeks, Watson, and Company from 2004.
Virtual Carillon created by Matthew Wrather, Class of 2002
Construction of the tower began in 1917, and the John Taylor Bellfoundry of Loughborough, England cast the original 10 bells in 1921. The donation of the tower, the bells and the residential college that adjoins the tower, was made by Mrs. Anna M. Harkness, in memory of her son, Charles William Harkness, Yale College class of 1883. After the bells were installed in 1922, Yale's organ curator was the only person to ring the bells regularly until a student, Elliot H. Kone, class of 1949, took over and formed the Guild of Yale Bellringers. In 1964, Miss Florence S. Marcy Crofut donated 44 new bells, and the set of chimes became a 4.5-octave carillon. Along with this promotion of status, the student group renamed itself the Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs.
A Carillon Timeline
- 1917-1921: Construction of Harkness Tower
- 1921-1922: John Taylor Bellfoundry casts and installs the 10 bells of the Harkness Memorial Chimes
- 1922-1946: Samuel H. Smith, Curator of Organs, serves as bell-ringer
- 1946-1949: Elliot H. Kone '49 takes over the post of bell-ringer
- 1949: Kone founds the Guild of Yale Bellringers
- 1964: The installation of a practice carillon and 44 additional Taylor bells begins
- 1966: Yale Memorial Carillon dedicated on October 2
- 1967: The Summer Concert Series is established
- 1969: Yale hosts the annual Congress of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA)
- 1970: The Guild doubles in size and goes co-ed
- 1972: First Guild European tour
- 2006: Yale host the GCNA Congress after renovations and acquisition of a new practice instrument
- 2016: Yale celebrates 50th anniversary of the Yale Memorial Carillon by hosting the GCNA congress and commissioning 50 new carillon pieces
How can I support the Guild?
The Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs is a non-profit organization and we are always appreciative of financial donations from alumni, carillon enthusiasts and members of the Yale and New Haven communities. Each year, we fund carillon performances in our Summer Series with guests from around the world. Members of the Guild also often travel as a group to carillons nearby and afar. Donations and good wishes can be sent to:
PO Box 201964
New Haven, CT 06520
Where is Harkness Tower?
Harkness Tower is located in the center of the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut, approximately 90 minutes northeast of New York City. For directions to Yale, contact the University Visitor Information Center. Harkness Tower [map] is located on High Street, between Chapel and Elm, directly across from the Old Campus, the best listening location for carillon concerts. For more information, please contact us at