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The carillon is a musical instrument consisting of 23 or more chromatically tuned bells. Each bronze bell is individually cast and tuned at the bell foundry. The bells are played from a wooden console of batons and pedals which somewhat resembles an organ console. Carillons became popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Holland, Belgium and France. The earliest set of cast bells operated from a clavier dates from about 1480, in Antwerp.

The carillon and tower at UCR were a gift from former UC regent Philip Boyd and his wife Dorothy. Professor of Music William Reynolds was asked to serve as musical advisor in the selection of a suitable carillon for the campus. He recommended that the University purchase a 48 bell carillon from the Paccard Bell Foundry in France. The bells range in weight from 5,091 pounds to 28 pounds and are housed in the bell chamber at the top of the 161 ft. tower.

The dedication of the carillon and tower took place on October 2, 1966. The dedication concert was played by University Carillonneur Lowell Smith. After serving 10 years as the University Carillonneur, Mr. Smith left the University and Margo Halsted was appointed University Carillonneur. She served until 1987 and then resigned to take a similar position at the University of Michigan. David Christensen, appointed in 1987, is the current University Carillonneur.