Michael Wenye Li / Sun Photography Editor

Cornell Chimes first started ringing on Oct. 7, 1868 while mounted on a wooden stand.

September 16, 2018

Cornell Chimes Celebrates Its Sesquicentennial With Sing-Alongs and Birthday Cake

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The Cornell Chimes — a set of 21 bells housed in McGraw Tower — will celebrate its 150 year anniversary during this year’s homecoming weekend with a special narrated concert and a chimesmasters reunion for the classes of 1956 to 2021.

Cornell Chimes first started ringing on Oct. 7, 1868 while mounted on a wooden stand, according to the organization’s website. One of Cornell’s oldest musical traditions started with nine bells, which has been recasted and expanded to 21 bells today.

The chimes will perform a 30-minute concert on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. accompanied by an introduction and explanation of the music “as we walk through 150 years of history,” according to Marisa LaFalce ’97, chimes program coordinator.

Unlike most of the times during which chimesmasters play their music high up in McGraw Tower, this time, there will be video display in Ho Plaza featuring the chimemasters during their performance, LaFalce said.

“Unlike many musical performances where the musicians have the opportunity to introduce a piece and provide context before their performance, the chimesmasters are often playing for a crowd that is listening from 173 feet below them, walking across the Arts Quad, or hiking up Libe Slope,” LaFalce told The Sun.

“And yet, despite this detachment, for so many years the chimes have been an essential part of the Cornell experience, playing their music in concert with the moods of the campus including the many highs and lows,” she told The Sun.

The Cornell University Chorus and Glee Club — who is also celebrating their sesquicentennial this year — will lead a community sing-along of “Happy Birthday Dear Chimes” and “Alma Mater” at the end of the celebration, after which the Big Red Marching Band will perform their annual homecoming concert.

Cornell Dining will provide birthday cake for those attending the celebration. The celebration will also feature “other fun freebies,” according to LaFalce.

“With so many alumni in Ithaca, the campus can look forward to hearing a lot of beautiful chimes music,” La Falce said. “It will be a morning of music and a rare event where the musical jewels of campus will all be together.”