If you’ve ever visited the University of Chicago campus, chances are you’ve heard the sounds of bells ringing from Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.
Dating to the 1930s, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon is one of the largest instruments in the world—with 72 bronze bells that combine to weigh 100 tons. The iconic instrument draws scores of carillon players and music lovers each year for its summer concert series, and rings out during UChicago recitals and events.
But during the academic year, it also takes requests. Played twice a day (noon and 5 p.m.) by the UChicago Guild of Carillonneurs—a group of students led by University Carillonneur Joey Brink—the carillon can adapt to any genre of music, from classical and pop to film and jazz.
To hear your favorite song on the carillon, submit your request online. You can also tour the carillon in person, if you’re willing to brave the 271 steps up to its bell tower. Below are a mix of the most-requested popular songs and some student favorites—plus commentary from Brink.
Harry Potter theme
Guess what our most requested song is? Yep, it’s the Harry Potter theme. You’ll feel like you’re at Hogwarts as you sit under the ivy-covered Gothic architecture with “Hedwig’s Theme” soaring down from the tower.
Prelude from Kaleidoscope, by Joey Brink
A reaction to the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, this carillon prelude is a popular piece among carillon students. Commissioned by Yale University in 2016 for the 50th anniversary of their carillon, the full Kaleidoscope suite is dedicated to my sister, Meg. Look out for it any day of the week!
Kahoot is a classroom quiz tool, and this theme plays in the platform lobby and during the quiz. Put this one on endless repeat for the right effect.
Lord of the Rings theme
A popular request, and very effective on the bells. Listen for the Riders of Rohan melody on the big bass bells!
“Ripple Effects” by Prof. Augusta Read Thomas
Contemporary music for carillon! The composers in UChicago’s Department of Music write the coolest music for the instrument, much of which will be featured on an upcoming CD, also titled Ripple Effects, coming in 2020.
“Let It Be” by The Beatles
I arranged this on the carillon for my partner, Vera, as a Christmas present back in 2010 when we were college students. We had just started dating at the time. Now we’re married and have a 1-year-old daughter!
“Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas
Disney music is my favorite genre to play on the instrument. (Tip: request a Disney song and you are twice as likely to hear it played). “Colors of the Wind” in particular, when the melody goes into the super low bass bells.
Chopin’s Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2
A classic piano piece that works particularly well on the carillon, with ornamentation that highlights the control and capability of the instrument.
“Mia & Sebastian’s Theme” from La La Land
Bring your date to Rockefeller to hear this one, and maybe you’ll hear the rest of the La La Land soundtrack too!
“Clocks” by Coldplay
It’s kind of fun to play Clocks in a clocktower. “But there’s no clock on the tower,” you say. But the bells tell you the time of day every hour from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Don’t be late!