Music of the Rochester Carillon

Wooden “batons” serve the same purpose as a keyboard. You can enjoy the music of the carillon on Annenberg Plaza (between the Plummer Building and the Mayo Building) and other nearby locations.

"Official Rings"

The Rochester carillonneur (bell master) and guest artists perform at 12:00 noon and 4:45 p.m., Monday-Friday. These scheduled performances are known as “official rings” of the carillon. They present varied selections of seasonal and multi-cultural interest.

30-minute carillon rings

  • 12 noon -- Wednesday and Friday
  • 4:45 pm -- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday
  • 7 pm -- Monday
  • 8:30 am -- Thursdays during the summer months


Concerts featuring the Mayo Clinic bell master and guest performers are scheduled throughout the year. They are open to the public and free of charge.

Chimes on the Quarter-Hour

Many carillons play a “chime” or melody at 15-minute intervals to mark the time of day. At the top of the hour, the bells sound the appropriate number of strikes to mark the hour – for example, 12 strikes at noon. The carillon at Mayo Clinic features two chime “formulas” or “settings.” These chimes are also known as “quarters” because they play on the quarter-hour.

“Westminster Quarters” - Click to Listen.
Iconic melody associated with the “Big Ben” clock tower at the Palace of Westminster in London, England. In 1928, Dr. William J. Mayo chose this setting for the Plummer Building carillon. You can hear it from the 11th day of the month until the end of the month.


“Mayo Clinic Chimes” - Click to Listen.
This melody was composed specifically for Mayo Clinic’s carillon. It combines the work of James Drummond, first carillonneur of Mayo Clinic, with that of Jeffrey Daehn, Mayo’s third bell master. The idea for a unique chime setting was proposed by David Daugherty, M.D., Rochester native and graduate of the first class of Mayo Medical School, whose family has a multi-generation history with Mayo Clinic. You can hear “Mayo Clinic Chimes” from the first to the tenth day of each month.


Carillon Tunes Played Daily

Dr. William J. Mayo chose these tunes for the Plummer Building carillon:

6:00 p.m. - “Sicilian Mariners” (also known as “O Sanctissima” and “Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing”)

Click to Listen.


9:00 p.m. - “St. Clement” (also known as “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended”)

Click to Listen.


Mayo Clinic TraditionThe carillon is dedicated “To the American Soldier.”

“America” (“My Country ‘Tis of Thee”) - 

Click to Listen.

Since the Rochester Carillon was installed in 1928, Mayo Clinic has followed an honored tradition of beginning each official ring and concert with “America.” This tradition recognizes the Mayo brothers’ dedication of the carillon: “To the American Soldier.”


What is a Carillon?

A carillon (“care-uh-lawn”) is a musical instrument that consists of at least 23 bronze, cup-shaped bells. The bells are precisely tuned by paring their interior metal surface.

The bells do not swing. Rather, they are rigidly fixed to supporting beams that are housed in a tower. Clappers, pulled by wires, strike the inside surface of the bells to create music.

The person who plays the carillon is called a bell master or carillonneur (“care-uh-lawn-NUR”). He or she sits at a keyboard console called a clavier (“cla-VEER”) that has a double row of oak keys (known as batons) and a pedal board. The bell master presses the batons and pedals to move the clappers inside the bell.

The carillon is powered entirely by the force of the performer’s hands and feet. Because the tones of the bell sounds are altered by variations of touch, a skilled performer can produce a wide range of sound patterns.

The art of playing the carillon originated nearly 500 years ago in the area of Europe that now comprises the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France.

Carillon music is best heard about 500 feet downwind from the source – ideally, in an open area away from distracting noise. The sound is clearest during crisp, cold weather. However, carillon music can be enjoyed at any time.


The Carillon at Mayo ClinicThe largest bell is nearly 6 feet high and weighs 7,840 lbs.

There are more than 180 carillons in the United States and Canada. Most of them are at colleges and universities and houses of worship. Mayo Clinic is the only medical center to have a carillon. At 56 bells, Mayo Clinic has one of the largest carillons in North America.

The distinctive Plummer Building tower, which houses the carillon, was not part of the structure’s original plans.

Inspired by a love of music and the desire to honor American soldiers following the First World War, the Mayo brothers and other community leaders explored various options for having a carillon in Rochester in the 1920s.While locations such as a city park or local church were considered, construction of the Plummer Building provided an ideal solution. The building’s plans were altered to create a tower with carillon and clavier. Since then, the tower has defined the city skyline.

The original 23 bells were the gift of Drs. William J. and Charles H. Mayo. They were cast in the foundry of Gillett and Johnston in Croydon, England, and consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury before shipment to the United States. The largest bell is almost six feet tall and weighs 7,840 lbs. The smallest bell weighs 19 lbs.

Thirty-three bells, along with a new clavier, practice console and glass-enclosed performer’s cabin, were added to the Rochester Carillon in 1977. These enhancements were made possible with gifts from Mrs. Frances G. Sheets and Mrs. Isabella Gooding Sanders, descendants of Alphonso Gooding, a Rochester pioneer.

The new bells were cast at the Petit and Fristen Foundry in Aarle-Rixtel, Holland. Now at 56 bells, the Rochester Carillon covers a 4.5 octave range.

In 2013, John T, and Lillian G. Mathews provided funding for a computer that enables the carillon to play tunes and chime melodies automatically, when a performer is not present.

A variety of music is played during each carillon concert to reflect the diversity of Mayo Clinic patients, staff and visitors. The carillon is an example of how the performing arts support the healing mission of Mayo Clinic.


The Carillon Players of Mayo ClinicFrom left: James Drummond, Dean Robinson, and Jeffrey Daehn

There have been three official carillonneurs or bell masters of Mayo Clinic:

  • James Drummond – Served from the installation of the carillon in 1928 until he retired in 1958. He said his goal was to play music as a way to give “peace and inspiration and a lift of spirit to Rochester visitors, which was the intent of the carillon’s donors, Drs. Will and Charles Mayo.”
  • Dean Robinson – A Rochester native, he served as bell master from 1958 until his death in 2004. He studied music at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and MacPhail College of Music in Minneapolis. His career included performing and teaching carillon, organ and piano.
  • Jeffrey Daehn – Originally from Chicago, he studied music at Valparaiso University in Indiana and Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He came to Rochester in 1977 as organist and music minister at Zumbro Lutheran Church, studied carillon with Dean Robinson and other well-known carillonneurs and was appointed bell master of Mayo Clinic in 2004.