The original carillon at Christ Church Cranbrook is comprised of 46 bells from the Taylor Bell Foundry in Loughborough, England. The beautiful instrument was a gift in 1927 to the new church building from Grace Booth Wallace, Harold Lindsey Wallace ,and their children (Elizabeth Ellen,Ellen Virginia, Richard Booth, Shirley Anne and Catherine Booth).
The new carillon was dedicated at a concert on Sunday, September 30, 1928, played by Anton Brees, a native of Antwerp who at that time was carillonneur at Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. Brees later became carillonneur at the famous Bok Tower in Lake Wales, Florida. He returned to the church for several summers to play. This was the beginning of what is now called the Summer Carillon Series.
The largest bell or “bourdon” of the carillon is the low B-flat, which measures 5 feet, eight inches in diameter and weighs 6,700 pounds. The carillon was later expanded with smaller treble bells to its current total of 50 bells, or four complete octaves. Its most recent updates include a new playing console or clavier plus new practice instrument and new benches designed by Rick Watson, then with the Verdin Co., in the mid-1990s. In 2001, 14 new treble bells from Ohio-based Meeks, Watson and Co. replaced earlier ones of poor sound quality. These projects were made possible through gifts from friends and members of the church, most notably from Kathryn and William Gossett.
The carillon is a set of at least 23 bells tuned to the notes of the chromatic scale. The bells of a carillon, unless doubling as swinging bells, are stationary. The Booth-Wallace carillon has no swinging bells and is in concert pitch. Only the carillon clapper moves when actuated by an intricate system of wires connected to a keyboard or clavier. The lower two octaves of the Christ Church Cranbrook carillon are also activated by pedals. The action of the clappers is affected by springs or counterweights but is purely manual.
Clapper size relates to the size of the bell and should meet the inside or mouth area of the bell at a perfect strike point for the best musical tone. Clappers can be replaced and/or turned to new strike points to reduce wear on the bell. The bells are tuned and perfected at the foundry. Because it is exposed to dirt and weather, the instrument benefits from regular maintenance, including cleaning and lubrication of moving parts and inspection for signs or corrosion or wear.
Christ Church Cranbrook enjoys one of the most spacious playing chambers in the carillon world. Under the bell chamber and at the top of 70 circular steps, it was carpeted and updated with built-in cabinets in the mid-1990s. The playing/office area has an air conditioner and plenty of room for tower tour guests to observe the carillonneur at the clavier or the practice instrument. The room also houses our unique Ellacombe, a set of eight ropes attached to their own hammers or clappers, which can ring out a C-to-C octave for simple tunes or change ringing.
The Christ Church Cranbrook Organ
Cranbrook archival documents indicate that, in September 1925, the Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Massachusetts was being considered as the builder for the church’s pipe organ. By October of the same year, the stoplist for a three-manual and pedal organ had been drawn up. During this period, Ernest M. Skinner had engaged the renowned British organ builder, Henry Willis, as consultant in an artistic alliance with his company in England. The original organ, therefore, reflected the influence of this great English organ builder. By December 1925, the stoplist had been agreed upon, and a contract was signed for a three-manual E. M. Skinner organ.
In July 1927, a letter from the Skinner Organ Company responds to a desire from the church to enlarge the organ from a three-manual to a four-manual instrument, adding another department of stops. The addition and enlarged console were contracted for in November 1927. As the back portion of the overly large tower organ chamber had been walled in, another location for this additional new section had to be found. This new Solo section, located in a chamber on the north side of the choir above the working sacristy, “would certainly add tremendously to the effectiveness of the result” stated W. E. Zeuch, Skinner’s second Vice President. The organ of 46 stops over four-manuals and pedal was installed by the end of the year 1927.
Between 1945 and 1955, various proposals from a number of builders in the US and Canada were developed to enlarge the Cranbrook organ. Charles McManis, a small American builder, was chosen for the project. He came to the Cranbrook organ in 1956 when the revival of the neo-classical style of organ-building was in its curious first phase.
Accepting that there were shortcomings with the original Skinner installation – poor placement of the pipework and a deficit of clear, bright upperwork – the resulting McManis revision showed that he was following the trend of the day. In short, ranks of pipes were shuffled from one department to another with only slight improvement of placement, some bright “Baroque” high pitched stops were added, while some of the rich, full-bodied stops were thrown out completely. With an overall reduction in wind pressure, the result was a loss of character and majesty, even though the instrument was increased in size to 69 stops.
By the 1970’s, the original Skinner console had deteriorated to the point where it was deemed essential to replace it. Early in 1992, an Organ and Carillon Renovation Committee was formed to address the many needs for the failing organ. During the summer of 1993, a subcommittee of three committee members, the organ consultant and the two staff musicians, travelled to the east and west coasts to audition representative instruments by the two leading prospective organ builders for the Cranbrook organ project.
Impressed by two superb organs and vast experience restoring, rebuilding, and reconstructing existing and historic instruments, the committee selected British organ builder, N. P. Mander, Limited for the Cranbrook organ project. From the outset, Mander organ builders proposed the preservation and re-instatement of the 1920’s pipework as a basic and important element in reconstruction. They adopted as the general principle for the project a recapturing of the style of the Skinner organ with any additions or alterations being compatible with that style.
The resulting instrument includes more of the original Skinner pipework than the McManis revision of 1955/1956. The 1997 E. M. Skinner/N. P. Mander organ contains 98 stops over six manual divisions and two pedal divisions. All mechanical and electrical components are new. The new four-manual Mander console is constructed in a traditional English style and blends harmoniously with the woodwork and decorative carving of the church.
Behind the decorated organ case, the tower organ, containing the great, swell, choir, solo and pedal divisions, accompanies the congregation in its music for worship and plays the full range of organ repertoire with uncompromised majesty and subtlety. The Chancel organ with two manual divisions and pedal was designed with the accompaniment of choirs and small ensembles of singers and instrumentalists in mind.
A gift of parishioner, Virginia Sory Brown in memory of her mother and aunt, the Chamber Organ was built by George Bozeman, Jr. and Company, Organ builders, Deerfield, New Hampshire.
The musical design of the instrument is influenced by mid to late 18th-century English bureau organs and the small chamber organs which George Frederic Handel would have known and played. Mr. Bozeman proposed in particular a design patterned after a chamber organ which Handel used for the first performance of Messiah given in Dublin in 1742. Special attention was given to the design and detail of the organ case. Fashioned upon the Arts and Crafts style of the early 20th-century American master furniture maker, Gustav Stickly, the dark oak paneled case appears to be from the period of the construction of the church (1925-28). The pipe shades seen when the case is opened take their inspiration from detail found throughout the church building which suggest the Art Deco style as found in other Cranbrook buildings.
The organ was dedicated March 9, 1997, when the congregation was worshipping in the Guild Hall during the installation of the E. M. Skinner/N. P. Mander organ.
Open Diapason Descant 8′
Stopped Diapason Bass 8′
Stopped Diapason Descant 8′
Flute Bass 4′
Flute Descant 4′
Nazard Descant 2-2/3′
Fifteenth Bass 2′
Fifteenth Descant 2′
Tierce Descant 1-3/5′
The Handbells of Christ Church Cranbrook
Christ Church Cranbrook boasts the largest collection of bronze handbells in the state of Michigan and one of the largest collections in the nation. In addition to the handbells, the handbell ensemble augment their sound with three octaves of Petit & Fritsen handbells and six octaves of Malmark choirchimes.
With nearly seven octaves of bells, the collection is impressive. The bells are cast by the two American bell foundries. The bottom sixth and seventh octaves (C2-B2) were cast by Schulmerich Carillons, Inc. The rest of the bells (C3-C9) were cast by Malmark, Inc. Each handbell bears an inscription on its handle. You can read the inscriptions by clicking here.
The unique tones of choirchimes have been compared to the soft flute tones of the pipe organ. Christ Church Cranbrook has six octaves of choirchimes. The Cranbrook Ringers use them regularly to enhance their musical selections with the beautifully mellow sound.
The Petit & Fritsen Bells
A gift from the Diocese of Michigan to Christ Church Cranbrook, these bells were originally owned by St. Martha’s Episcopal Church, Detroit . Little is known about these bells, originally cast in the Netherlands by the carillon foundry Petit & Fritsen. It is likely that the bells were a gift to St. Martha’s by Henry Ford and his family, long-time members of the church. These bells, with their unique minor-third overtones, are a welcomed addition to our handbell program.