While one may conjure the image of a hunchbacked Quasimodo atop Marsh Hall ringing bells for the Pacific community to keep time, there are no actual bells to be rung; just speakers.
The bell chimes, which can be heard every day, do not come from the only real bell on campus, which is located in Old College Hall. That bell is used for the orientation ceremony of Sign, Shake and Ring and is not the source of the half-hourly chimes.
A bell tower carillon is what actually produces the bell noises. A carillon is an automated machine that uses recordings from memory chips, turns on an amplifier to play designated songs out of four large speakers.
The carillon is in Marsh Hall and the speakers are on the roof.
The system of a carillon is easy for the university, said Associate CIO of University Information Services Ted Krupicka.
“Maintenance-wise it’s under an hour a year,” said Krupicka. “It is just a matter of fine tuning the time.”
And fine-tuning takes place as needed. When it came to the University Information Services attention that the bell was ringing two minutes fast, the timer was updated. The bell rings on time as of Monday March 14.
The system holds a limited selection of songs. The 40 songs include genre’s ranging from gospel and Methodist hymns, to Easter, Christmas, patriotic, and even harvest and Thanksgiving songs.
The University Information Services Department made a special song order in 2007, and got a custom ring made for the “Pacific Fight Song”, composed by Professor Charles Dietz, which played for the first time August of that year.
The bell tower carillon rings every hour and half hour starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. weekdays. Saturday and Sunday’s the carillon starts its rings at noon and ends 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday the carillon plays “God the Omnipotent” at noon and the “Pacific Fight Song” at 5 p.m.
Every Sunday the carillon plays “The Lord Is My Sheppard” at noon and plays “Amazing Grace” at 5 p.m.
In January 2001, the carillon was bought when Pacific’s then-president, Faith Gabelnick, came into office. It was one of her projects while at Pacific, said Krupicka.
Adjustments to the carillon can be made whenever they are needed, or when the president requests it.
Not only is the program easy to maintain, the carillon can be used in case of an emergency. A microphone can be switched on for emergency directions or announcements to be made.
Despite Pacific being the oldest university west of the Mississippi, and having a culture rooted in tradition, a digital system has always been the method for keeping time.
“I’ve worked here since 1993 when the bell was run on an A-track system,” said Krupicka. “The carillon system has always been electronic.”