Luray Singing Tower

"The carillon affords the poor man the opportunity to enjoy a rich man's concert"
Percival Price, Father of North American Carillon Performance and Campanology.

 Luray’s carillon truly is a work of musical and visual art which has entertained, inspired, and educated thousands of visitors to the Shenandoah Valley. Many accomplished students have learned and performed recitals at the Luray Singing Tower. Preeminent carillonneurs from around the world have graced this instrument and captivated audiences. However, time, use, and simple wear and tear have placed its toll, not on the bells, but on the mechanisms and playing console of this wonderful instrument.   The carillon is a machine, and there are problems inherent to all mechanical machines, and the carillon is not an exception.  Parts wear, causing loose, fluctuating, warped, noisy, and frictional action. Virtually every moving part of this particular carillon was installed eighty years ago.

Many advances in carillon playing action have evolved in the last eighty years. In whole, this renovation will allow the carillon to play for another eight or more decades. The bulk of the work will allow a greater range of expression, repeated notes, and open more possibilities of compositions to be played on this instrument.

The Luray Park Association anticipates that with updates to the action, damage caused by wear and tear of the machined parts will be eliminated.  From the listener’s standpoint, the ambient noises from the playing console and transmission system would be significantly reduced, even eliminated, thus allowing even the most silent, beautiful musical phrase to be heard.  For the student and professional carillonneur, having a responsive console will significantly expand the spectrum of music that could be played on the carillon and improve the music quality of performance.  For the community, the carillon will continue to be the center piece of Page County and ring every week, as it has for the past 80 years.

A weekly summer concert series from April to October has been in place since the earliest years. With imaginative programming combining both familiar songs and carillon compositions,  the concert series attracts a wide range of people of all ages and musical backgrounds – from the regular concert attendee to whom the carillon series is their first exposure to live performance.  For over 80 years, the Luray Singing Tower has hosted superior guest carillonneurs from every country where carillon art can be found.

The recital series in Luray is one of the longest, continuously running recital series in North America. Many carillons in North America fall silent due to the lack of financial resources for maintenance and/or a professional carillonneur once an institution is presented with a gift of bells.  The Luray Singing Tower has historically, and continues to have, a deeply rooted commitment to providing for the position of  the carillonneur, to supporting the annual recitals as a community outreach program, and to making funding available for the continued maintenance of the instrument.  A gift towards the renovation of the Luray Singing Tower will insure that this great instrument will continue for decades to make a resounding call, uniting all people in community spirit with the music of the bells. The carillons in North America are few in number (180) compared to the carillons of Belgium and Netherlands (over 250). The relative scarcity of this magnificent instrument makes the preservation of the Luray Singing Tower even more critical and important to the current and future audiences who will enjoy carillon music. 

 All the restoration and replacement projects will be broken into several phases--the first phase is designated to make immeadiate changes at the carillon console to ensure that every note played by the carillonneur is effortless and extremely musical.

 Phase 1, Console Restoration: $15,000 

Replace turnbuckles, pedal coupler assembly joints. Re-felt clavier and refinish/repair as necessary. Replace, maintain, and repair guide wires in transmission.  

 Phase 2: Spring Balance: $23,000

 Remove counter weights and spring balance the transmission to lighten the action. Install snail springs on pedal board to relieve resistance. $23,000

Any donation is graciously welcomed, the Luray Park Association is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
Your support of the Luray Singing Tower ensures many years of Carillon music in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

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Definitions and Long-term Goals:

Replacing all forty-seven clappers with adjustable clappers and new mounting hardware for each bell. In the last 80 years the clappers have been worn flat and have been rotated once in their lifetime, thus, no further adjustment can be made This flat striking surface makes a dull and doesn’t allow the bell to sustain as long. New clappers will produce a clearer tone and will be adjustable in just a few steps.

Removing counterweights and replacing with springs. The lower clappers of a carillon are very heavy—counterweights allow the carillonneur to strike these bells with less effort, however, these weights often eliminate the player’s ability to strike the same note in quick seccession. Return springs will lighten the action and allow the carillonneur much flexibility in playing.

Replacing all Turnbuckles. Turnbuckles allow the carillonneur to make minute adjustments in the wire that connects each carillon key to the clapper. These changes in wire length are caused by temperature and humidity fluctuations. Most of the original turnbuckles have siezed and will not adjust, making the clapper stroke too short (doesn’t strike) or too long (crashes into the bell to cause a non-musical metallic tone).

Adding a low E-flat bell. Luray’s carillon contains 47 bells (almost 4 octaves) but lacks the low C and D sharp. Most early carillons did not have these two semi-tones, however the advances in carillon tuning has allowed bellfoundries to produce these bells with success which, in turn, has given permission to composers to include these pitches in their pieces. The lack of the low e-flat restricts carillonneurs from playing many newly-composed pieces, not to mention extra time is spent to transpose pieces into another key, which would be a difficult task for spontaneous events and certainly an inconvenience to guest carillonneurs.