The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Carillon is played live in recital Monday to Friday, 12 noon and 5 pm while the University is in session, and at weekends for events. During the academic quarter, we offer the opportunity for visitors and members of the University community to climb the tower for carillon recitals, Tuesday through Friday (the Chapel is closed to visitors on Mondays). Check our home page for current details, including notification of academic breaks when we do not offer tours. Read more about visiting the carillon.
During the summer, we present a special series of Sunday evening concerts, The Bells of Summer, five Sundays at 5 pm, July 23 through August 20, 2017. These concerts last for an hour, and you’re invited to bring a lawnchair or blanket and a picnic. Children and nicely behaved animals are welcome.
The carillon is also played for special occasions, such as convocations, concerts, theatre events, and weddings.
Chicago Pile-1 (CP-1) 75th Anniversary Carillon Performance
Saturday December 2 | 3:25 pm to 3:53 pm
Henry Moore Sculpture with audio from the Rockefeller Tower
The world première of a new work, The Curve is Exponential, by composers Joey Brink and (graduate student in Music) Ted Moore, commissioned by the University of Chicago for the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction, led by Professor Enrico Fermi. The “pile” went critical at 3:25 pm on December 2, 1942, and lasted 28 minutes, at which point alarms sounded and Fermi halted the process. Scientists and humanists alike recognize the complexity of engaging with this moment in the University's history, and the commissioning of this 28-minute work for carillon and electronics is part of the University’s commemoration of the anniversary.
Tuesday December 5 | 5 pm
Hot chocolate, apple cider, yummy snacks, and favorite carols by the fire pit played by Joey Brink and senior students of the Rockefeller Carillon Studio. Dress for the outdoors! Free.
We offer a sixty-minute visit to Rockefeller's famed carillon, in which you climb the 271 steps and attend the carillon recital played by University carillonneur Joey Brink and members of the carillon studio in their regular master classes. Toward the end of the recital, you are escorted to the top of the tower, to hear the bells from above.
If you'd like to climb the tower, we invite you to arrive at the Chapel's front desk in time for departure at 11:30 am or 4:30 pm prompt, Tuesday through Friday during the academic year. There is a suggested donation of $5, free to those with University of Chicago ID.
Please note that the tour is not suitable for children under the age of 5. Young children and their guardians, and those who are unable to climb the 271 steps, may watch the recital free of charge in the Chapel itself: unless there is another event going on inside the Chapel, all recitals are broadcast live into the Chapel, with both audio and video feed. If your friends or relatives have gone up the tower without you, you can expect them back down sixty minutes after they leave.
Carillon tours are limited to 15 per recital.
If you wish to inquire about bringing a group of eight or more persons to a carillon recital, please be in touch with Matthew Dean, director of Chapel operations.
Climbing the tower
Tours are led by University carillonneur Joey Brink and students who are members of the carillon studio, Tuesday through Friday during academic quarters. The climb up the spiral stone staircase is taken at a leisurely pace and is not recommended for those who are claustrophobic. Along the way you’ll walk above the Chapel’s false ceiling (the attic, via a catwalk), through the mechanical room housing the original carillon regulator clock as well as the pneumatically-driven mechanism of the quarter and hour chimes, past the largest bell (36,926 lbs at 117 inches in diameter) and its 13 friends, and thence into the playing cabin, 240 steps up, where the carillonneur plays the mighty instrument. Beyond the cabin, another short winding staircase leads the way to the top of the tower and magnificent 360 degree views of Chicago, Lake Michigan, northern Indiana and the port, the Michigan shoreline, and of course the University itself. It’s worth doing at every season of the year!