UF celebrates 40 years of Century Tower bells

Published: Sep. 25, 2019 at 6:50 PM EDT
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A historic landmark that can be heard throughout the Swamp has entered its 40th year being played on campus at the University of Florida.

“I think its really a part of what the fabric of the university is about,” said Laura Ellis, a UF associate director and professor of music.

Ellis along with several alumni celebrated the 40th anniversary of the carillon being installed in century tower.

“The one thing interesting about carillon is that you're the one here playing and you don't know what people are thinking about on the ground,” Ellis said. “Hopefully, people enjoy our music we play, they understand its a teaching instrument and so you'll here different levels of players but that's what a university community is about."

UF students who play the carillon say they enjoy being a part of the history on campus.

“I think its really cool to be a part of the campus culture,” said Wade Fitzgerald, a UF student. “If you look at any postcard from UF, century tower is almost always there. Its one of the crown jewels of campus."

UF student Ryan Childress started playing the carillon a few semesters ago.

“Its like an icon,” Childress said. “Everybody recognizes it. You can see it pretty much anywhere on campus. You can hear it pretty much anywhere on campus. Its integral to the culture of the university.”

UF installed the traditional carillon in 1979 when Century Tower's original electrical sound system blew out. It started with 49 bells, and 12 more were installed in 2003 as part of a 9/11 ceremony. The bells were imported from the Netherlands.

“Its organized like a piano keyboard,” Ellis said. “We do have pedals on the floor here where we use our feet. The general technique is a closed fist and then you toss the batons."

The music school hosted a 40th anniversary celebration where alumni who played the instrument held a concert at century tower on Sunday and unveiled a perpetual plaque, which lists all former musicians who played the carillon at UF.

“What you hope as an organist and a carilloneur is that the music you play touches somebody and that its meaningful to somebody,” Ellis said. “For me personally, its just being able to do that. Its just trying to add that and try to enhance somebody's day."