The Swoope Carillon in Barker Tower is one of 163 traditional carillons in the United States. A gift of Mr. Henry B. Swoope (1900) and his family, the original 43 bronze bells were cast in 1926 by the English firm of Gillett and Johnston of Croydon. The bells contain bits of historic metal collected worldwide by alumni and friends of the school, including copper coins, metal from Old Ironsides
, pieces of artillery shells gathered from the fields of France in World War I, a shaving from the Liberty Bell, and bits from Admiral Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar, HMS Victory
In 1996, the addition of six new upper bells put the carillon into concert pitch. The carillon then contained 49 bells ranging in size from 10 pounds to more than three-and-a-half tons, which ranks it 43rd in weight of the largest (lowest pitched) bell.
Almost as famous as the carillon itself was Bryan Barker
, the man who played it for more than five decades. In addition to playing the bells at Mercersburg, Barker was also the faculty adviser to The Mercersburg News
for 32 years and dean of the (now defunct) ’Eighty-eight Dormitory. Generations of alumni fondly remember Barker serenading them to sleep on Saturday nights. The carillon’s tower was named in his honor in 1978.
In 2008, a 50th bell was added to the Swoope Carillon, a low C#, dedicated to James W. Smith
, Bryan Barker’s successor. With the whole school assembled to watch, the 50th bell was lifted into place May 2, 2008, and it was first played by Jim Smith a few days later, after the mechanics had been put in place. Smith served as carillonneur from 1981 until his death in 2009.
Today, carillonneur James A. Brinson
plays the bells to summon the school for community gatherings and other school meetings, ring in the holidays, and entertain us with performances throughout the year. Visiting carillonneurs also give concerts frequently on Sunday afternoons during the academic year.
For further information regarding featured carillonneurs, please contact Jim Brinson at 717-328-6334, or check the calendar
for a complete schedule of carillon performances.
The organ is a gift of the late Mr. and Mrs. George A. Wood of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Built by the Skinner Organ Company of Boston in 1925, the organ has 55 stops, nearly 4,000 pipes, 27 couplers, and 33 adjustable combination pistons.