Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 160 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

My Photo
Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, August 01, 2022

Carillon restoration at St. John's - Rector's Rambling for July 31, 2022

    God willing, by tomorrow afternoon a wonderful sound will be restored here on the corner of Woodward Avenue and the Fisher Freeway Service Drive.The crew from The Verdin Company will be at St. John’s to install the upgraded equipment for our Schulmerich electronic carillon.

We have real bells, and an electronic carillon.  Over the chapel entrance on the freeway side of the building we have our original bell, cast in 1859 (the year the building opened).  In 2001 it was taken down and a new rope-wheel installed, which was designed by former parishioner Paul Erlandson, and fabricated at the shop owned by Bruce Burton.  In the belltower there is also a bell, a very large one.  That one is dated 1861 and has two ways to be rung.  It can swing and be struck.  The swing is the more common way to ring it, pulling a rope and letting it go to let the bell swing back and forth as the interior hammer hits each side.  The tolling rope strikes the bell with each pull and is used at funerals and other somber occasions.  Both ropes are located on the 3rd floor of the belltower, the bell being located on the 5th floor.

In the 1980s the parish purchased an electronic carillon.  This includes 4 large speakers in the belltower, and a smaller one facing into the church from the back, that broadcasts the sound of bells.  The original unit, including a Digital Audio Tape player (when was the last time you saw something like that?) that played hymns. The last few years the old unit was lovingly cared for by the late Chris Sayers,  long after the company stopped supporting that type of unit, and parts became unavailable.  Summer of 2021 it stopped functioning at all.

The new unit is a state of the art digital device which will be programmed to play the Westminster Chimes (ringing every 15 minutes), the Angelus prayer ring sequence at Noon and 6 PM, and hymns appropriate to the season. 

Plans are in the works to have a dedication ‘concert’ of hymns on an evening at the end of the summer where we will welcome our neighbors to our garden to enjoy the new instrument.