Old Norwood carillon retains clarity
Bells rang Sunday afternoon in Norwood town square.
By Stephen Williams Globe Correspondent
The occasion was the dedication of a marker commemorating the town’s 100th anniversary, and the star performer was the 44-year-old carillon encased in the bell tower of Town Hall.
The simple, pure sound of the 52-bell instrument was orchestrated by guest carilloneur Earl Chamberlain of Cohasset and the concert created an old-fashioned ambience as a crowd of townspeople milled about on the green.
Inside the “bell room,” a small, chilly cubicle up a narrow steel stairway in the brick tower, Chamberlain moved his hands over the smooth wooden handles of the carillon keyboard
A flight above the bellroom, suspended on a huge framework that occupies almost all of the tower’s space, are the bells. “Each bell is insulated from the metal frame, so that there is no vibration,” says Jim Johnson, custodian who acts as a combination tour guide and public relations man for the carillon. He pointed to the blocks of wood and sheets of leather that separate the bells from the frame.
The carillon was donated to the town in 1928 by businessman Walter F. Tilton, on the condition that the supervision and operation of the instrument be overseen by a town committee.
It is unlikely the 43,076 pounds of bells will go rusty with disuse, said custodian Johnson. “We regularly show off to visitors as well as music classes from the town’s schools,” he said.
Roger Walker, a blind carilloneur who performed for more than 40 years in Norwood, was recently succeeded by Martin Gillman of Lexington. And, to prepare a reserve of carilloneurs, the town plans to
initiate a training program for high school students.
The toughest job, however, belongs to Johnson, who has to oil the keyboard relays and crack the ice off the bells in winter so the carillon can be used for the Christmas concert. “Yeah, it gets kinda chilly up here,” he smiled, as he wind blew stiffly through the open screens and seemed to settle cold in the big metal bells.