The Carillon was a gift to The Riverside Church by the late John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in memory of his mother. It contains 74 bronze bells ranging in weight from the 20 ton (18 metric) Bourdon (hour bell) to the smallest treble bell of 10 pounds (4.5kg.). The Bourdon is the largest and heaviest carillon bell ever cast. The total weight of all the bells is over 100 tons (91 metric).
When installed at The Park Avenue Baptist Church in 1925 by Gillett & Johnston Foundry of England, it was already the world's largest carillon, with 53 bells and a bourdon of ten tons. When it moved here, with the congregation, in 1930, it was enlarged by Gillett & Johnston to become the first carillon to surpass five musical octaves; it is the only carillon to have achieved a bourdon pitch of C, a full octave below the normal range for a carillon. In 1956, the upper range of bells was replaced by the Van Bergen Foundry of the Netherlands.
The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon rises 392 feet (119 m.) above the street. It is equipped with observation platforms both for the carillon and for the 360-degree view of the city and the Hudson Valley.
Within the bell chamber are the Machine Room and the Clavier Cabin. The Machine Room houses equipment for automatic operations. Five of the large bells are installed for swinging by means of wheels and motors. Swinging peals sound before worship services and on special occasions. During the day a drum mechanism automatically plays the Parsifal Quarters arranged from the Holy Grail motif of Wagner's opera Parsifal. The bourdon bell sounds the hours.
Through the windows of the Clavier Cabin may be seen the carillon keyboard. It consists of wooden levers played with the hands and pedals played by the feet; each is attached directly to the clapper. All the bells are playable by direct action of the carillonneur, with no electronic gadgetry; for ease of operation, however, the six heaviest clappers may be moved by means of an electro-pneumatic assist.
The Carillonneurs of The Riverside Church have been: Kamiel Lefévere (1927-1960), James R. Lawson (1960-1989), and Joseph Clair Davis (1990-1998). Dionisio Lind is the current Carillonneur. Recitals are played Sundays at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 3:00 (or 2:30 p.m.), and on special occasions such as Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and New Year's Eve. Listening is best in the parks around the church.
Sunday Playing Schedule
10:30 - 10:58 am : Before Worship Service
12:30 - 12:58 pm : After Worship Service
3:00 - 3:58 pm : Late afternoon
Safety and security concerns dictate the public no longer has access to the tower and the Carillon.
Bell boarding the boat from UK to NYC
Listen to a sample of the Carillon here: