Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Daemons Discover New Haven: Harkness Tower

Harkness Tower (click to enlarge)
Today we come to you from New Haven, Connecticut – The Book of Life hot-spot and part-time home of some of our beloved All Souls Trilogy characters.  Today’s installment of Daemons Discover New Haven takes us to Harkness Tower (namesake of our author and a location mentioned in The Book of Life).

“Afterward we strolled the paths of the residential colleges while the carillon played in Harkness Tower. College and town were just beginning to swell with returning students who shouted greetings across the quad and shared complaints about reading lists and class schedules."
 ~ The Book of Life

Our Maven Daemon, Angela, was able to explore Harkness Tower in great detail.  Here is the excursion from her vantage point:

Harkness Tower is a magnificent Collegiate Gothic masonry tower that houses Yale’s carillon – known as the Yale Memorial Carillon

The tower was constructed between 1917 and 1921 as part of the Memorial Quadrangle, and when the residential college system was inaugurated in 1933, the tower became part of Branford College.

Memorial Quadrangle (view of dining hall) / Branford College Courtyard
Branford College in front of Harkness Tower
Harkness Tower stands at a grand 216 feet (one foot for each year since Yale's founding at the time it was built) and has 284 steps ground to the roof. I trodded the steps to the point just under the clock faces via a tight spiral staircase.
Spiral staircase leading to carillon inside Harkness Tower
(The steps to the bell tower above the balcony where the carillon console is housed is only accessible by the maintenance crew.)

Spiral staircase leading to bell tower
The carillon has 54 bells (big and small).  The first 10 bells were cast in 1921 and the rest were cast in 1964.

View of the two lowest bells above the room where the carillon is housed

Auditions are held each year to become a Yale carillonneur, and on average 80 students compete annually.  From the 80 that audition, approximately 5 students are selected to join The Yale Guild of Carillonneurs.

Fun Facts:
•    You do not need to know how to play a musical instrument to be a carillonneur; you only need to know how to read sheet music.
•    Nearly any song can be played on the carillon --- if piano sheet music exists for that song. (It’s a sight to see the improvisation and tweaks made on the fly - i.e., not all piano notes fit neatly into carillon playing.)

I had some of the most knowledgeable, patient and talented tour guides and carillonneurs in Kevin (double-majoring in molecular physics, and biochemistry) and Jonathan (double-majoring in engineering, and music), both Yale students. (Find out more about them, other carillonneurs, and the Guild in the About the Guild and Current Members sections.)

Kevin gave a tour of the lower tower, including the room where music, the original carillon console, and founding memorabilia is stored (a Guild mini “hall of fame”so to speak.) I was also shown the practice area (complete with a practice console, of course), and the jewel of Harkness Tower, the main carillon itself.   I was able to take in the view of campus from the balcony of Harkness Tower (located under the clock face.) It’s breathtaking to see the north, south, east and west sides of campus from each side of the tower.

View of Yale campus from Harkness Tower
The bells are played twice per day during the school year – once at 12:30 pm and again at 5:30 pm EST.  The first chimes for each hour that is played start out with Westminster Chimes. (Did I nearly jump out of my skin getting a chance to play the Chimes on Yale’s carillon?! Yes. Yes, I did!)

Immediately after, I was treated to carillon performances for a full hour!  (They accept song requests too!  I was in awe so I let the experts do the choosing.  They did not disappoint!)  You can see a medley video of the tour and some of the songs they played here and additional videos in their entirety on our YouTube channel.

From our YouTube channel
Note regarding video:  The first 1:22 minutes of the video are the Harkness Tower bells playing vs. various images.  The ambient chatter that is heard is a wonderful example of Yale student life unfolding and the bustle down High Street as I took video of the carillon playing.

I was expecting a quick tour and got so much more than I ever imagined.  I can’t thank Kevin and Jonathan enough for providing memories for a lifetime – and allowing me to chronicle it all for all of you!  It’s clear that they are musically gifted and love what they do (in addition to all the academic work they do full-time!)  If you are ever in the New Haven area, it goes without saying that I’d recommend visiting the Yale Campus – specifically, arranging a tour of Harkness Tower.  It is worth the time.  If Daemons had a rating system, I would rate this excursion 5 big lattes (like the kind with big foaming froth, complete with barista artwork and all!)

Additional sites of interest:
•    For a comprehensive history and details:  The Character of Harkness Tower
•    To discover and demystify all of the stonework, sculptures and architecture on the exterior of Harkness Tower, refer to the Ornamentation section on the Tower's Wikipedia page.
•    Yale Guild of Carillonneurs on Facebook
•    Yale Guild of Carillonneurs on Twitter
•    Harkness Tower - our Yale University YouTube playlist located --> here
•    View all of the pictures from this leg of the tour: gallery

Compelling factoid not to mention interesting and unexpected juxtaposition: There is a Buddhist shrine inside the base of Harkness Tower.  You can read more about its wonderful history and dedication here.

Until next time, “Lux et Veritas” (Light and Truth – Yale’s motto)

Post by A. Hutter
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