Carillon bells toll for students, visitors alike

As graduating students and visitors stroll through campus during the week of Spring Congregation, they'll be greeted periodically by the sound of carillon chimes ringing out from the Ladner Clock Tower in front of Main Library.

A new carillon, an organ-like instrument housed beside the clock tower, replaced the original last year.

The original electro-mechanical carillon, installed when the tower was built in 1968, comprised 330 bronze bars which were struck with metal hammers activated by the organ console.

Fully digital, the new carillon can be played manually or programmed to play automatically. It is capable of producing synthesized bell sounds including celesta, harp, chime, cast Flemish and English.

The sound is amplified and broadcast through 12 speakers housed in the tower.

The carillon plays for five minutes three times daily at 10:25 a.m., 12:25 p.m. and 2:25 p.m. It also chimes on the hour and is played on special occasions such as Christmas.

Suzanne Dodson, facilities and preservation manager with the UBC Library and a classical pianist, is one of a few people on campus who play the carillon.

"I think it conjures up a sort of sentimental feeling for many of the people who hear the chimes while walking across campus," says Chuck Slonecker, acting vice-president, External Affairs.

Slonecker says that while he gets the odd complaint from people who dislike either the sound in general or the tunes played, complaints are greatly outweighed by the number of positive comments he receives.

The clock tower was built in 1968 with a gift from the late Leon Ladner, a prominent Vancouver lawyer and former member of UBC's Board of Governors.

On announcing his gift in 1966, Ladner wrote: "When that clock tower is completed and the clock rings out the passing of each hour, I hope it will remind the young students that not only does time go fast, but that the hours at our university are very precious and the use of those hours will seriously affect the success, the happiness and the future of their lives."

The Ladner Clock Tower was intended as a tribute to the pioneers of B.C. and, in particular, to Thomas and William Ladner. It was initially supposed to be called The Pioneer Clock Tower.

The Ladner brothers, of Penzance, Cornwall, England, arrived in Victoria almost exactly 140 years ago (May 15, 1858) after five months in a covered wagon on the California Trail and six years in the gold fields of California. The town of Ladner, where they settled in 1868, bears their name.