UW News

April 4, 2018

UW’s newest icon — a carillon of bells atop Kane Hall — to be dedicated Thursday

UW News

carillon bells

The Gordon Stuart Peek Foundation Carillon will be dedicated Thursday.Mark Stone/University of Washington

A new carillon — the only such instrument in Western Washington — will ring in full concert at the University of Washington for the first time Thursday. Dedication ceremonies and concerts for the new campus icon will take place at 11:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The events are free and open to the public.

The Gordon Stuart Peek Foundation Carillon — 47 bells in total — sits atop Kane Hall and is a gift from UW alumnus Gordon Peek. Installed last fall on a ventilation shaft, the carillon was placed so the bells could be visible from afar. The project cost about $1.1 million.

“People enjoy them,” said Peek, 92. “It’s something new around here.”

A carillon is an instrument made up of a chorus of bells accompanied by an organ-like keyboard, said Wesley Arai, the carillonneur, or player, who will perform Thursday. Arai, who previously has played the instrument, described the UW’s carillon as having a “pleasing sound.”


A new carillon will be dedicated and played on April 5.Mark Stone/University of Washington

The instrument spans four octaves with bells that range from about the size of a flower pot and fewer than 20 pounds up to 5 feet across, weighing more than 1,500 pounds. The carillonneur uses closed fists and feet to strike pedals which, in turn, ring the peals.

Thursday’s concerts will feature a variety of classical selections and popular songs, including Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” and, of course, “Bow Down to Washington.”

Bells long have sounded on the UW campus. A dozen bells were given to the school in 1912 by the Blethen family. Those bells used to ring from a converted water tower until fire destroyed them in 1949. It was these bells that first sparked Peek’s interest in the instrument.

Peek’s grandfather used to take him, then a boy of 5, to hear the UW’s bells. After those bells were destroyed, decades went by before new bells would ring on campus.

“People were getting along very nicely until I came along,” Peek said.

Peek earned both undergraduate and advanced degrees at the UW and eventually would teach history here. The sound of music, especially bells, drove his wish to have bells reinstalled on campus for generations to hear.

“He loves music. He loves bells,” said John Linvog, a Peek Foundation board member. “He wanted something left on campus.”

In 2008, Peek donated the bells atop Gerberding Hall. Those bells operate differently than the carillon. Rather than being played by a keyboard-like instrument, Gerberding’s bells are played by a team of so-called change ringers who sound the peals by pulling on cords in a coordinated fashion. The Gerberding Hall bells are rung on most weekends and following some football games.

The UW’s newest bells were cast by the Royal Eijsbouts Bell Foundry in the Netherlands, established in 1872 and famous for clock and bell towers.

Bells have a unifying, uplifting sound that inspires all who hear them, Peek said. He hopes his gifts will endure and will add to campus life.

“I think this is something that can last a while,” he said.