The carillon is a musical instrument consisting of at least two octaves of carillon bells arranged in chromatic series and played from a keyboard permitting control of expression through variation of touch. A carillon bell is a cast bronze cup-shaped bell whose partial tones are in such harmonious relationship to each other as to permit many such bells to be sounded together in varied chords with harmonious and concordant effect. The carillon is operated by striking the pegs of a keyboard with the half-closed hand. The pegs are connected to wires; each wire pulls a clapper, which in turn strikes a stationary bell bolted to steel beams. The keyboard is located directly below the bells in a room specially constructed for it. The keyboard is arranged like that of a piano. The foot pedals are attached to the bottom half of the keyboard extending the range and possibilities of performances.
Interesting Facts about the Carillon at First Church
The First Church carillon has the distinction of being the only carillon in North America with all bells cast by the Whitechapel Foundry in London, England. The designer and builder of the present carillon, Timothy Hurd, was responsible for the unique design of all 50 bells. The Stearns carillon also has the distinction of being the lightest in Connecticut with the bourdon bell, the largest bell, weighing in at only 870 lbs.
History of our Carillon
The Stearns Carillon was originally the dream of Dr. Gordon Stearns, Sr., who served for many years as the organist and choirmaster at First Church. The original carillon was named in his honor when it was installed in 1970. Later, in 1985, the instrument was expanded to provide more depth and range. Contributions from many church families in 1970 and again in 1985 made Dr. Stearns dream a reality. The carillon is played regularly on Sundays and at special occasions throughout the year. In the summer the Church sponsors a series providing the church and community the pleasant sound of finely tuned bells.
Summer Concert Series
A summer carillon series is held annually. Concerts are free. All are welcome to attend and bring a chair or blanket and sit on the south lawn of the church, on the lawn of the public library next door, Blue Back Square or across the street on the Town Green.
Click here to view a list of performers for the 2021 season.