Carillon History

History of the SPC Carillon


The Second Presbyterian Church Carillon was the first small bell carillon in the nation when it was installed in the ’60s. The largest bell only weighs 119 pounds and the smallest weighs 18 1/2 pounds.

In the 1960s Pastor Robert Cleveland Holland took a trip to Europe. He fell in love with the sound the larger Carillons made. At that time, he made the decision that he wanted one for Second Presbyterian Church. As soon as he was back in the states, he called the Verdin Company. After his phone call, he was disappointed as the cost for the large carillons were not in the budget for the church. However; Pastor Holland did not give up. He contacted the Verdin company again and they discussed creating a smaller version of the carillon. At the time the Verdin company was making small bell installations and the idea came from that.

At last, the Verdin engineers came up with the design that currently sits on top of the Second Presbyterian church. The smaller carillon is made up of 35 bells covering a range of three octaves.

The carillon is not an easy instrument to play as it takes a lot of strength. The playing board consists of wooden keys that are connected directly to the bells by means of pulley and wires. To play the carillon the carillonneur must depress the key with both their fists and feet.

Some other interesting facts about the Carillon:
  • When the carillon was dedicated to the church, Wendell Westcott from Michigan State University was invited to play the first concert.
  • Many people who heard the first concert stated that the carillon sounded like a “giant music box”
  • 5 of the original church members who could play the carillon went to Michigan State University to learn how to play it.
  • Our Carillon was used in several ad placements for the Verdin Company to inspire other churches to order one.
  • Katherine Flory donated the carillon to the church to the glory of God and in memory of her father, ruling elder Charles Flory
  • Each bell has a name engraved on it. The largest bell is engraved with Mr. Flory’s name for the donation of the bell. The second bell is named MacDonald for the first Presbyterian minister in this territory in 1802. The third bell is named Alexander for the Rev. Alexander Duncan, first and founding pastor of Second Presbyterian Church. The remaining 32 bells are named for the original charter members of Second Presbyterian Church in 1836.

To hear the beautiful Carillon Music watch the video below.