The Collegian
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

A Day in the Life: The Bell Ringer

In college, it's easy to lose track of time, but at the University of Richmond it's difficult to let 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. slip by without deciphering the familiar tune that's been gothic-ified by Boatwright's bell tower.

Although a hunchback would fit in with the gargoyles on campus quite nicely, our bell-tower ringer not only has excellent posture, but she also doesn't ring bells.

In 2008, she programs speakers to shuffle songs.

In addition to playing campus disc jockey, Joanne Kong has been directing the University of Richmond chamber ensemble and coaching students in instrument and voice for the past ten years.

"I think that even The Vatican is now using electronic bells," Kong said.

The control room, where Kong goes to change the settings on the electronic system, is on the fourth floor of the library, not at the top of the 124-foot tower. However there is a ladder with access to the roof and bell tower, but she had only seen it used by the staff members who are in charge of hanging the wreaths at Christmas, she said.

She estimated that the university had 30 to 40 electronic cards, each programmed with 12 songs. The cards are categorized by genre, ranging from The Beatles to Polish Christmas Carols, she said. The system that the university uses was made by Schulmerich Carillions and each song card cost approximately $65.

There is also a small keyboard in the control room that Kong said she had played for specific occasions, mostly memorial services.

"For the last six years I've played something to commemorate 9/11," Kong said. "I have either played something live or tolled a bell just by pressing one key."

Kong was born in New York and began playing the piano when she was seven. She studied music at The University of Southern California and the University of Oregon and then lived in San Antonio, Texas before coming to Richmond.

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Contact staff writer Emily Viviani at emily.viviani@richmond.edu

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