The Centennial Carillon Tower was built and dedicated in 1975 to commemorate the one-hundred-year anniversary of the founding of Brigham Young University. President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Spencer W. Kimball dedicated the tower during the Centennial Founder’s Day convocation, a campus celebration of the anniversary. The tower sits just south of the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum at the north end of BYU’s campus.
Architect Fred L. Markham was hired to design the 97-foot-tall tower. It holds 52 bells that range in weight from 15 to 4,730 pounds, weighing a total of 26,695 pounds. The bells were cast in Aarle-Rixtel, Holland by the Petit and Fritsen Bell Foundry. An inscription on the largest bell reads: “May these bells proclaim forever our gratitude to those who founded and to those who sustain Brigham Young University – Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff and Friends. Oct. 1975.”
The bells are automated to toll a tune based on the LDS hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints,” followed by tolls for the hour. The bells also toll a chime on the half hour and are typically played for commencements, concerts, devotionals, and other special campus events. The bells have also been rung on special occasions, like the 1987 U.S. Bicentennial “Bells Across America” event, the 1989 national “Bells of Tribute to George Washington” event, and the 1993 “Bells for Hope” event, when university bell towers across the nation rang their bells to show support as President Bill Clinton took office.
The bells are played by clavier, a keyboard-type instrument played by pushing wooden batons and foot pedals. The whole instrument, the bells and the clavier, are called a carillon, and those who play it are referred to as carillonneurs. BYU carillonneurs play at the clavier located under the belfry, in a small room at the top of a spiral staircase of about one hundred steps. Professor Don Cook serves as the university carillonneur and has performed on tours in Holland and the east coast of the United States. Cook offers a carillon class for which interested students must audition.
The Centennial Carillon is the only carillon owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.