Every hour from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. the carillon marks the hour with the familiar Westminster chimes. Four times a day we hear the bells toll the hour followed by two hymns, evoking East Lansing’s dual nature as both a small town and a vital city.
The current carillon is the fourth to be used at Peoples Church, and all four have been manufactured by Schulmerich Bells in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. The first three relied on a paper scroll similar to that used in a player piano; the current system uses high fidelity recordings of actual bells.
Beginning in 2003, no bells rang at Peoples. Long-time Church members Ron and Carol Dooley were visiting New York when the pealing bells of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church made them wonder about restoring the tradition in East Lansing. With a generous donation, the Dooleys made it possible to replace the carillon, and it has marked the hours for East Lansing residents since August of 2013.
The hymns we hear are chosen on a weekly basis by Church organist Judy Kabodian, and often reflect the liturgical calendar. In addition to hymns, the carillon’s digital library includes classical and popular music from The Beatles to the MSU fight song. It also has the ability to play taps on trumpet and amazing grace on bagpipes.
According to Senior Pastor Andrew Pomerville, the bells can be heard much more clearly outside the Church than in, because “the music is intended more as a gift to the community than to ourselves.” It is a glorious gift, and one that enriches the lives of everyone lucky enough to be within hearing range.