A little more about Roland Pomerat and the Carillon

Here's Pomerat, messing around with the timer of the carillon.

I got a surprising number of emails from people with stories about Roland Pomerat, who turns out to have been a fairly colorful guy. Some of these are printable. One long time faculty member wrote:

“I don’t remember the exact year, but Roland Pomerat stayed at Rice until his death-I’m pretty sure in the early ’70s. I’m confident someone will have the exact year. Here’s a little unsubstantiated tidbit. As I understand it, it was and remains true that although memorial services are often held in the chapel, no corpses or ashes are permitted to be on display. I can’t remember who told me, but I do recall that it was someone in a position to know, that, because of his ties to the chapel, an urn containing Mr. Pomerat’s ashes were placed out of site behind the “altar to an unknown god” at the front of the chapel.

I choose to believe it.”

I choose to believe it as well. It fits with the Rice I know, which has been a place where “those in a position to know” will sometimes quietly bend the rules for a good cause.

Another reader added that Pomerat drove around in an Alfa-Romeo and occasionally played whimsical or topical tunes on the carillon. The same reader alertly noted that Pomerat’s short obit appeared in the September, 18, 1969 Thresher:

Peccadilloes. I’m a big fan.

I also got a kick out of one of the comments to the original post, which I will reproduce here in it’s entirety:

“The REAL carillon at ISU is in the campanile and contains REAL (not electronic) bells cast of bronze in England. The largest bells from 1899 were the first well-tuned bells imported into the United States. These bells have NOTHING to do with the electronic bells in the chapel. ISU carillonneur is Tin-shi Tam, Dept. of Music, Music Hall 057, Ames, IA 50011; 515-294-2911; tstam@IAState.edu”

As an Iowa State alum, I kind of share this feeling. Yet, I can’t help but think that Rice was better off having an electronic carillon than no carillon at all. I wish it were still working, and that someone with the wit to play whimsical tunes were still at the keyboard.

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3 Responses to A little more about Roland Pomerat and the Carillon

  1. Jim Marks says:

    Real bells might be better to a well tuned ear, but the sad truth is that well tuned ears are more rare than those with ears believe them to be. Also, real bells go out of pitch as they tarnish, corrode and wear down while electric ones do not.

    More importantly, Rice’s carillon IS real bells. Just very small, and electronically amplified – but this is not the same thing as the truly lifeless _synthesized_ bells that more and more churches are adopting to keep use below municipal noise regulations.

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