This might be the most interesting thing I saw in the chapel. I went to college at a school (Iowa State) that had a carillon and I always loved it, even as a callow undergraduate. I’d even seen it up close once for a class and was amazed at the sheer physicality it took to play the enormous bells. So I was quite surprised when I was shown this tiny box attached to the wall in the organ loft and was told it was the carillon. But it really is.
Here’s how this happened. When the chapel was completed in 1959, Rice was looking for an organist who could also help manage the facility. The soon found Roland Pomerat, an
organist and carilloneur who had trained at Riverside Church in New York. Pomerat was living in Houston with his brother, a researcher at the UT Medical School. He took the job as organist and assistant manager of the chapel, but also began exploring the idea of building an electronic carillon at Rice in collaboration with with an electronic engineer from California named Paul Rowe, partner in the Maas-Rowe Carillon Company.
After a good bit of tinkering, the electronic carillon was installed in the fall of 1962. (It replaced a twenty-four unit, single note melody system up in the RMC tower, that the Thresher claimed was “famous for its catchy rendition of ‘Danny Boy.'”) The new instrument was operated from the keyboards of the pipe organ. There are 74 bronze rods, graduated from two feet down to a few inches. At the foot of each rod is a tiny electromagnetic hammer that responds to the playing of the organist. When one of these hammers hits a rod, the tone it produces is very, very faint, but it was amplified and then transmitted through telephone wires to the campanile.
They also set it up so that it could be played automatically through some kind of system of cut rolls. Here’s the front of the box with the automatic controls:
I don’t know how long Pomerat stayed at Rice, or how long the carillon continued to be played. I’d really appreciate any information about this at all, so if you know anything now’s the time to speak up.
Here’s a very Rice-like bonus: