Ask Benny: What's that ringing in my ears?

Dear Benny,

When did Penn get a carillon on campus? Whenever I’ve been out around College Green, I’ve noticed bells chiming the hours. It seems new to me this year. Also, I could have sworn one evening when I was doing some research in the library I heard the bells playing some sort of tune.  It was right before a game at the Palestra. Could I have just been suffering from low blood sugar and hallucinating?

— Ears Still Ringing

Dear Aurally Astute,

The chiming you heard came from the bells in a carillon installed on top of the Sweeten Alumni House at 35th and Locust Walk in 2004.

According to Kristina Clark, associate director of Alumni Relations, the bells play Westminster chimes with strikes on the hour from noon until 6 p.m. daily. The tune of Westminster chimes, by the way, is said to be based on a phrase from Handel’s aria, “I Know That My Redeeemer Liveth.” In addition to the hourly chimes, the carillon plays two random melodies at noon and 6 p.m. That must be what you heard while in the library. Just a coincidence it was right before a basketball game.

This carillon replaced one that was donated in the late 1980s by Michel T. Huber ‘W’53, ASC’56 (former director of Alumni Relations) and alumni and friends in memory of Mr. Huber’s daughter, Michelle, ENG’87, W’87 and her fiancé, Bryan D. Giles, ENG’87, W’87, who died tragically in a car accident about a year after graduation.

When the original carillon fell into disrepair and stopped chiming the hours, Development and Alumni Relations raised additional funds to reinstall the carillon and bring the sweet sounds of bells back to campus.


Originally published on April 13, 2006