Carillon music serenades campus—and beyond—again

Burns Tower

Burns Tower

A familiar sound is once again ringing across the Stockton Campus—music from the carillon “bells” in Burns Tower, now played by computer. 

The music resumed in April with songs played twice daily at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. followed by the university’s alma mater “Pacific Hail!” at 11 p.m. 

The bells, which can be heard on and off campus, were temporarily paused last August to upgrade the aging carillon system. 

“The minute it was gone I immediately noticed. Others did too. People love the bells,” said Kevin Shawver, who lives close to campus. 

The bells have been a beloved part of the community for decades. “I remember one time getting out of the car in the hot summer and it was playing “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,’” Shawver said, laughing. 

Daniel Walker, a digital media engineer at Pacific, has worked to bring the music back, which required a special program to upload songs into the new system.

“For “Pacific Hail!” I reached out to special collections at the library and was able to get a copy of the sheet music. Then I reached out to our Conservatory of Music and was able to get a program that I can insert the sheet music into, have it play the bells and give me file of that,” said Walker.

Pacific wants to strike the right tone with future selections by including more contemporary and diverse music. Many of the previous songs were affiliated with specific religions or holidays. 

Walker is also working to incorporate songs suggested by faculty and staff but. He must ensure they fall in the right range to translate well into bell tones. “If it doesn't go below or above a certain note, then I can make them into the bell version,” said Walker.

Though the music will largely be played using the computer, it will be possible to perform songs using a keyboard for special occasions.

“When I did the design for the new system, I worked with the Conservatory of Music. We can hook one of their keyboards into the system and they will be able to play the piece,” said Walker.

The carillon system has evolved over the years. The first version was installed in Burns Tower in 1964. It was replaced with an electronic version in 2000 and upgraded again in 2021. 

The current version plays music from a computer which is amplified through speakers on Burns Tower.