DSO receives donation of Bells of Remembrance

Bells assembled to memorialize events of 9/11
December 24, 2018

A unique gift to the Delaware Symphony Orchestra will certainly help ring in the holidays, as the Franciscans have donated seven of their Bells of Remembrance to the orchestra.

These bells will be called the William Kerrigan Symphony Bells of Remembrance, and each has a specific pitch that corresponds to requirements for certain musical works in the traditional symphonic canon. For instance, the two largest bells, a 1,200-pound, 42-inch diameter bell pitched at G, and a 550-pound, 30-1/2-inch diameter bell pitched at C, are nicknamed the Berlioz bells, as they are used in the final movement of “Symphonie Fantastique” by Hector Berlioz. Other popular works that require bells like those in this collection include “Pictures at an Exhibition” and “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky.

“This is such an amazing and unique gift by the Franciscans, and something that sets apart the Delaware Symphony from pretty much any other U.S. orchestra,” said DSO Executive Director Alan Jordan.

DSO Music Director David Amado said, “Most orchestras resort to tubular bells, or chimes, in performances that call for these bells, but the sound is notional, at best. When the DSO performs with these bells, audiences will hear exactly what the composer intended.”

The Franciscan Center of Wilmington established a collection of large-scale bells that grew to more than 20 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The first victim of those attacks was Father Mychal Judge, OFM, a Franciscan friar of Holy Name Province who was chaplain for the New York City Fire Department. He was also a mentor for Brother David Schlatter, who was based in Wilmington at the time and spearheaded the Bells of Remembrance effort.

Over the years, the bells have been featured at events commemorating 9/11, fallen armed services men and women, firefighters, police officers and other victims. More recently, Schlatter has been overseeing the donation of bells for permanent placement, including four Bells of Consolation delivered to a memorial honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., and two bells gifted to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.

William Kerrigan, the DSO’s longtime principal percussionist, worked with Schlatter to identify and secure the seven pitched bells that comprise the collection donated to the symphony.

Schlatter said, “[Bill] was the one who really got the relationship going between the symphony and the Bells of Remembrance sometime after 2003.” The naming of the William Kerrigan Symphony Bells of Remembrance recognizes his contribution to the process.

While the DSO looks for a permanent storage space for the bells, transporting trailer and other equipment, the collection will be stored in the garage of David Amado’s home in Wilmington. In addition to using the bells when specifically called for in repertoire, they will be featured during other DSO performances, including outdoor concerts such as the City of Wilmington’s July Fourth concert.

Last summer, honorary bell ringers including the mayor and police and fire chiefs of Wilmington, philanthropist Tatiana Copeland, the retired adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard, and Star Wars characters Darth Vader and Boba Fett rang the bells during the finale of the “1812 Overture” at the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park concert.

“We will work to make these bells available for other organizations, too, as long as we can work out the insurance and transportation details. Moving a 1,200-pound bell cannot be left to UPS,” said Jordan.


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