Hearing Bells at Mayo Clinic in Rochester? It’s the Carillon!

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Annenberg Plaza in Rochester, Minn., is a beautiful spot on the downtown Mayo Clinic campus. In the summer when the flowers are in bloom, it can be a relaxing place to spend time between appointments or to eat lunch. It is also a great place to hear the bell music of the Mayo Clinic carillon. Housed in the tower atop the nearby Plummer Building, the bells of the carillon have been ringing in Rochester since 1928.

This summer, I had the privilege of meeting Mayo Clinic’s carillonneur, Jeff Daehn, for a tour. After climbing up a long, steep and narrow spiral staircase, we arrived in a large, open room that is home to Jeff’s office. Aside from the typical office items such as a desk, chair and computer, the room had an instrument with a keyboard. It looks very much like the real carillon located a floor above, but its “keys” are not hooked up to the bells in the tower. This is the instrument he uses to practice the songs he will play. Similar to a piano, the music from this practice instrument can only be heard by those in the room.

From Jeff’s office, we climbed up yet another flight of stairs to the actual carillon. What an amazing musical instrument.

The Mayo Clinic carillon is the largest in the United States consisting of 56 bells and offering a range of 4.5 octaves. The largest bell weighs in at four tons while the smallest bell weighs 17 pounds. What makes the carillon a unique instrument is that the bells do not swing. Instead, the bells are fixed to supporting beams and the clappers hit the sides of the bells to make the ringing sound.

Here’s an interesting piece of trivia about Mayo Clinic’s carillon: 23 of the bells were a gift from the Mayo Brothers. These 23 bells were cast in England, consecrated by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury and shipped to Rochester.

Jeff plays the carillon eight times a week year-round. He plays at the end of the work day Monday through Friday, at noon on Wednesday and Friday and at 7 p.m. on Monday. Although Annenberg Plaza is a great place to listen to the music, there are many other spots in downtown Rochester where you can hear the carillon.

This story was submitted by Barbara Sorensen, communications consultant at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

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3 Responses to “Hearing Bells at Mayo Clinic in Rochester? It’s the Carillon!”

  1. Carol Pehler Says:

    I lived in Rochester, MN for several years and then moved away and now as I am semi-retired I thought of the Mayo Clinic Bells this past Christmas. I would enjoy having a CD of the chimes. Is there such a CD to purchase? Please let me know.

    Thank you!

  2. Tina Miller Says:

    Thank you for this story! If you get a chance, please go see this wonder for yourself, truly a magnificent piece of our Mayo heritage.

    Jeff, thank you for being so accommodating when visitors want to come see you play! You are awesome!

    Tina Miller
    Division of Endocrinology

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