About the carillon

Quick Facts | Frequently-asked Questions | Play the virtual carillon | Timeline | Photos from the tower | Historical photos | Further Reading


Quick Facts

  • Harkness Tower: 216 feet, 284 steps to the roof
  • The Carillon: 54 bells, pitched in B
  • Total Weight: 43 tons
  • Age of Bells: 10 bells were cast in 1921, the remainder in 1964
  • Lowest bell: F♯ concert pitch, 13,400 pounds
  • Highest bell: B♮concert pitch, 26 pounds
  • The Guild: Founded in 1949 by Elliot H. Kone BR '49, renamed in 1964; 26 members maximum

Frequently-asked Questions

What is a carillon?
How many bells are there in Harkness Tower?
Important dates and people in this history of the Yale Memorial Carillon
What is the Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs?
Want to find out more about the architecture and history of Harkness Tower and the Guild of Carillonneurs?
How can I support the Guild?
Where is Harkness Tower?

What is a carillon?

A carillon is a musical instrument composed of at least 23 bells, tuned in chromatic sequence. It is played from a console that resembles a simple organ, with batons (for the hands) and pedals (for the feet). These keys move the clappers (metal ball) that strike and sound the bells, which remain stationary. This set-up allows the carillonneur to play with great dynamic expression. For more information, see a brief history and technical discussion on the GCNA website.

Virtual Carillon

Created by Matthew Wrather, Class of 2002

How many bells are there in Harkness Tower?

The Yale Memorial Carillon has 54 bells, chromatically arranged from the G (1.5 octaves below middle-C) to the C (3 octaves above middle-C) for a total of 4.5 octaves.

Important dates and people in the history of the Yale Memorial Carillon

Construction of the tower began in 1917, and the John Taylor Bellfoundry of Loughborough, England, cast the original 10 bells in 1921. The donation of the tower, the bells and the residential college that adjoins the tower, was made by Mrs. Anna M. Harkness, in memory of her son, Charles William Harkness, Yale College class of 1883. After the bells were installed in 1922, Yale's organ curator was the only person to ring the bells regularly until a student, Elliot H. Kone, class of 1949, took over and formed the Guild of Yale Bellringers. In 1964, Miss Florence S. Marcy Crofut donated 44 new bells, and the set of chimes became a 4.5-octave carillon. Along with this promotion of status, the student group renamed itself the Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs.

What is the Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs?

The Guild is the student organization responsible for ringing the bells in Harkness Tower. It is a self-perpetuating group: each fall, the current members give lessons to incoming freshmen (and sometimes sophomores and graduate students) on the practice carillon, and, after auditions, elect new members to the Guild.

Want to find out more about the architecture and history of Harkness Tower and the Guild of Carillonneurs?

Read The Character of Harkness Tower by Tritia Yamasaki, SY '96, a History of the Guild by Catey Bradford, ES '03, and the section about Harkness Tower and its construction in Building A University, 1919-1940 (note: link unavailable)o, a tercentennial exhibit celebrating Yale's architecture.

Click here to play a flash version of the Yale Memorial Carillon!

How can I support the Guild?

The Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs is a non-profit organization and we are always appreciative of financial donations from alumni, carillon enthusiasts and members of the Yale and New Haven communities. Each year, we fund carillon performances in our Summer Series with guests from around the world. As well, members of the Guild often travel as a group to carillons nearby and afar. Donations and good wishes can be sent to: Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs, PO Box 201964, New Haven CT 06520, USA.

Where is Harkness Tower?

Harkness Tower is located in the center of the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut, approximately 90 minutes northeast of New York City. For directions to Yale, contact the University Visitor Information Center. Harkness Tower [map] is located on High Street, between Chapel and Elm, directly across from the Old Campus, which is also the best listening location for carillon concerts. For more information, please contact us at carillon@yale.edu

A Carillon Timeline

  • 1917-1921: Construction of Harkness Tower
  • 1921-1922: John Taylor Bellfoundry casts and installs the 10 bells of the Harkness Memorial Chimes
  • 1922-1946: Samuel H. Smith, Curator of Organs, serves as bell-ringer
  • 1946-1949: Elliot H. Kone '49 takes over the post of bell-ringer
  • 1949: Kone founds the Guild of Yale Bellringers
  • 1964: The installation of a practice carillon and 44 additional Taylor bells begins
  • 1967: The Summer Concert Series is established
  • 1969: Yale hosts the annual Congress of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA)
  • 1970: The Guild doubles in size and goes co-ed
  • 1972: First Guild European tour
  • 2006: Yale host the GCNA Congress after renovations and acquisition of a new practice instrument (GCNA Congress website archived here.)

Further Reading