Bringing ‘community pleasure’

Pastor John Riley of Fleming Memorial Presbyterian Church invites the public to the dedication of its new carillon, or bell, system Sunday. The digital chimes toll on the hour from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., followed by a song from the system’s 320-song library (four songs at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 and 6 p.m.).

Fleming Memorial Presbyterian Church invites you to a special service Sunday.

That’s when its new carillon, or bell, system will be dedicated, said Pastor John Riley.

The older system played music from a revolving inventory of tapes.

“But it was about 15 years old and worn out, and we couldn’t get replacement parts,” Riley said. “One day, when the system was on the fritz, we realized how much we were appreciated by the people in the community when one of our neighbors called and said, ‘How come I don’t hear the bells?’

“On a couple of occasions, he even sent money to get the carillon fixed. Unfortunately, he died about 20 days before this new system was installed before Thanksgiving.”

Every day, from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. (“not too early in morning or too late at night”), Riley said, the hour will be tolled with the familiar Westminster chime, followed by one of the system’s 320 songs played twice.

But at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. after the tolling of the hour, four different songs will be played.

There’s no Quasimodo in the church belfry tugging at massive ropes to move monstrous bells. Instead, the new system is a high-tech digital recording of actual bells, Riley said.

The system contains about 320 songs in a wide variety: seasonal, gospel and hymns, and even patriotic.

“You can hear them well up to a quarter of a mile. But if you’re listening on a good clear day, you can hear the bells for about a mile,” he said.

“People say they enjoy the chimes. That one fellow enjoyed them so much he was willing to pay to have them repaired.

“They bring the community pleasure. And they also help you know the hour,” Riley said.

“These are not synthesizers. They are recordings of actual bells. As a consequence, some of the bells ring longer than others. When you listen to the songs, you can hear sometimes one of the notes ringing a little bit longer than you think it ought to, but that’s because of the size of the bell.”

When the bells chime the hour, you can bet it’s the right time.

“The bells are set on a digital clock that’s geared to an atomic clock in Colorado. We have it set to play the Westminster chimes. At the end of that, when the bells toll, it’s on the hour.”

Riley lives just behind the church, so he’s got a front-row seat.

“I get the full effect,” he said. “It’s a little louder for me than for other people.”

The new system was purchased from the Verdin Singing Tower Classic Carillon System in Cincinnati, Ohio, through the church’s memorial fund.

“When we purchase things with this fund, we do it to the glory of God and in memory of someone,” Riley said.

A representative of the Verdin company will attend the dedication Sunday, which begins at 10:45 a.m. The bells will play from 11:45 a.m. to noon.

“Then we’ll have the tolling of the hour and automatically go into playing another four songs,” Riley said.

Light refreshments and drinks will follow the service.

The public is welcome to attend the dedication.

E-mail Debra Minor Wilson at

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