[Bell Historians] Riverside (again & hopefully for the last time)

Alan Buswell aaj.buswell at XavTdt531hJJ0iOWrDDvzWeiNMlGDBnR3gFfNNzFCvaJ1YWkB-3HX05MScPvzJq43QSugAAhHuh4sFE2mL6tow.yahoo.invalid
Tue Mar 30 10:22:33 BST 2010

Well done. I'll attach your info to my records for posterity.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Timothy Hurd 
  To: bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com 
  Sent: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 2:11 AM
  Subject: [Bell Historians] Riverside (again & hopefully for the last time)


  Dear All

  In response to list-member interest shown (and certain opinions expressed) recently in respect of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon at The Riverside Church, New York, I thought I should get busy to set both the record, and correspondents, straight on a number of points. 

  Assuming that bell historians are still interested in such things as ‘facts’, you may wish to consider the following:

  1. In 1956, Kamiel Lefevre (Riverside Carillonneur at the time) had the upper 56 of the original 72 Gillett & Johnston bells removed and recast by van Bergen of Heiligerlee, The Netherlands. Conventional wisdom has it that all 56 G&J bells were melted down by van Bergen in the re-cast. However, at least two of the smaller original bells have ‘resurfaced’ in intervening years, drawing this assumption into question. How many were ‘souvenired’ is anybody’s guess. Van Bergen added two small trebles at the top of the range, bringing the total to 74. By any musically-informed assessment, the van Bergen bells were vastly inferior to the original G&Js, both in casting quality and tuning.

  2. In the 1999 carillon restoration, Olympic Carillon Inc. USA was contracted to do the following:

  a) Re-order the chaotic frame layout & change playing action from a ‘side’ to a ‘central’ transmission arrangement.

  b) Remove the machine room and electro-pneumatic machinery to make space for a new playing cabin. 

  c) Remove existing clavier room and underlying floor to open sound egress through the upper belfry & to permit installation of a completely new treble frame.

  d) cut a large rectangular hole through the 1ft-thick concrete E floor at the level of the old machine room ‘lean-to’, to permit sound to get ‘down & out’ more efficiently. The vast majority of the carillon’s 74 bells had previously been sounding either onto solid floors or into the roof of the clavier or machine rooms. 

  e) Reposition the C1 swinging bell & its ringing frame (all 17 tons of bell, fittings & steelwork) up one level and to a different side of the tower. This bell had previously been sounding hard against a solid brick/masonry wall. The ‘big swingers’ are therefore no longer precisely in their original 1930 arrangement, as previously stated by another on-list correspondent.

  f) Provide new 6-octave clavier & matching practice clavier.

  g) Renovate clappers on the 16 original G&J bells & provide new clappers for the WBF bells, with increased weights in the top 4.5 octaves to achieve greater carrying power. The carillon is situated 25 stories above ground level & Manhattan is a very noisy affair, 24-7-365 (!)

  h) Supply stainless steel, ball-bearing transmission system.

  3. The three principal objectives of the restoration were:

  a) to get rid of the horrible van Bergen bells, once and for all. N.B: the van Bergen bells were REPLACED outright (with new metal) and NOT RECAST for a second time. TRC retained all 56 van Bergens removed during the renovation. 

  b) in the most musically-responsible manner possible, to replicate 1930 G&J tuning and tonal complexion. 

  c) for the first time ever, to make the Carillon and Swinging Peal CLEARLY heard at ground level. 

  4. As regards the 58 new WBF bells:

  a) The heaviest WBF bell is note F1, 45” diameter. The limiting factor on size of largest bell replaced in 1956 (and again in 1999) was NOT the tower lift, but rather the rectangular dimensions of the single ventilation shaft in the floor of the lower belfry, this leading down to the lift motor room and thence, through a much larger hatch, to the elevator lobby at Level 20.

  b) The first half-octave of new bells (F1-A#1) employ EXACT G&J cloned profiles, thoroughly researched by myself & Nigel Taylor of Whitechapel Bellfoundry. There is no question of either imprecision or ‘somebody’s guess’ on this.

  c) Through the next half-octave (B1-E2), bell profiles change very slightly from note to note, merging into WBF modern profile for remaining trebles (46 bells upwards, from the beginning of the second new octave: F2). Upper octaves are, like the G&J originals, lathe-cut on inner AND outer profiles.

  d) Original G&J tuning records were accessed with kind assistance of Alan Buswell. Following sound tests & digital analysis of partials on the extant 16 G&J bells, the original measurements from 1930 were corrected for errors, as required & a new equation of least variance calculated (bearing in mind certain technical flaws in the original bells retained, as these could neither be replaced nor retuned). Bell design research also included documenting profiles on the lowest 16, making comparisons with other G&J peal and carillon bells of the same period & a precise analysis of bell metal composition using x-ray spectrography, test samples of bronze having been reamed from head bolt holes on the A#0, B0 and E1 bells. The G&J ‘matching’ job in casting quality & tuning achieved by Nigel Taylor of Whitechapel is nothing short of miraculous: the renovated carillon sounds as an authentic ‘high third’ G&J instrument of late 1920s/1930s (the whole point of the restoration, right?)

  e) The WBF trebles grow proportionally thicker in profile toward the top of the range; however, it is a gross exaggeration to say that “The trebles were almost solid - just a hole with a shoulder up the middle for a bell bolt.” (quote from another list correspondent). The WBF trebles are nowhere near as thick as some treble designs by Continental founders; they are particularly free and resonant owing to sensible scaling for a six-octave instrument AND to their increased tin content, up to 24.5%.

  f) Heavier clappers installed now permit the Carillon to be heard distinctly, with musical detail intact, within about a 10 city-block radius of the tower.

  5. As regards the 16 original G&J bells:

  a) In the lower belfry, only three bells belong to the swinging peal: C0, F0 & G0. The D0 and D#0 bells on this level are stationary, operated from the clavier only. The A0 swinger is located next story up at the same level as the new clavier room. The C1 swinger (described previously) is now situated yet another level up from there; moving the C1 has proven very successful in letting the bell be heard more clearly at ground level & enhancing the total ensemble of the 5-bell peal. All five swinging bells still have external hammers for clavier operation.

  b) In that the historicity of the G&J instrument was already lost in 1956 in the ill-fated van Bergen re-cast, had access and available $$$ not been a problem (which, of course, both were), it would also have been our recommendation in 1999 to replace certain of the remaining original 16 bells. Accurate tuning & measurement of higher partials in such large bells was problematic back in 1930; the secondary strike tones are particularly ferocious, masking the fundamentals at attack. The Bourdon C0 still sounds pretty much like an ‘F0’, even after Cyril Johnston’s three tries at producing such a Leviathan. The musical usefulness of such big bells is certainly a matter of taste, but the Church was adamant that the carillon transposition remain ‘as is’, i.e downward by a perfect 4th (C plays G), and that the range should remain at 74 bells, thus retaining the ‘world’s largest carillon’ distinction. That TRC’s 74-bell range has now been equalled or surpassed in number by several other carillons, the total weight of bell metal thus far remains unchallenged. 

  c) With 20-20 hindsight & the original tuning records in hand, it should be mentioned that there was probably very little ‘wrong’ with the 1930 G&J mid-range or treble bells. However, G&J carillons of the period tended to employ one profile throughout, i.e. the small bells were just bigger bells ‘shrunk’ in 3-D, therefore proportionally very thin and weak in comparison to the bass. It was their misfortunate, stratospheric placement in New York and various physical blockages in belfry & frame design that prevented the original trebles from being musically acceptable, or even audible, on the ground.

  6. Other considerations:

  a) Subsequent to the renovation, work by other contractors has been undertaken on the instrument, notably replacement of the Parsifal Chime/hour-strike mechanism. On the C0 Bourdon, a new hour-strike motor was incorrectly attached to the external hammer belonging to the carillon, making the clavier action extremely heavy. This motor should be removed and installed correctly on the dedicated hour-strike hammer, located on the opposite side of the bell.

  b) There is plenty of adjustability in the existing arrangement of recalling springs, counter springs & counterweights to permit the playing action to be lightened, if the Church so wishes. 

  c) The new clavier room was not part of the Olympic contract. Olympic was only responsible for ‘clearing the decks’ prior to its construction. Design & fabrication of the room was handled as a completely separate project by the Church architect. Several successive re-draws, a protracted tendering process & difficulty in getting ANY contractor to ‘stick build’ such a room 25 stories up effectively delayed completion of the carillon restoration by about two years. 

  d) There has, to my knowledge, been no further attempt to repair/renovate the hydraulic roller door shutters on the tower sound openings. At last inspection, several of these were still frozen in totally- or partially-closed position, making for only about 60% of the total sound egress actually ‘open’. Imagine the effect if these could be opened 100%...

  Timothy Hurd

  Olympic Carillon Inc

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