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Luray Singing Tower, Luray

3.9
#25 of 30 in Things to do in Luray
The Luray Singing Tower, officially known as the Belle Brown Northcott Memorial, contains a carillon of 47 bells, and, with an endowment to provide for its maintenance and for recitals in perpetuity, is a gift to the town of Luray by the late Col. T. C. Northcott and his daughter, Mrs. Katherine Northcott Graves, in memory of Col. Northcott's wife, Belle Brown Northcott. It was dedicated in 1937.

The Carillon is an Old World instrument, originating at least 400 years ago. It is a very popular musical instrument in Europe, especially in the Low Countries where in many communities it has traditionally become a part of the lives of the people. Indeed, most European carillons are owned by the city. A Carillon is a musical instrument consisting of at least 23 cast bronze bells arranged in chromatic series and played from a keyboard permitting control of expression.

The Taylor Bellfoundry of Loughborough, England traces its history back to AD 1360. The Luray Carillon's largest bell weighs 7,640 pounds and is six feet in diameter. The smallest is 12.5 pounds. The total weight of the bells is 36,170 pounds. Bellmetal is composed of 80% copper and 20% tin. After being cast, the bells are tuned by grinding on a large lathe. Few people have the knowledge and skills necessary for this art. A carillon bell actually sounds five pitches - the fundamental, the hum tone an octave below, the minor third, the fifth, and the octave. This characteristic minor third gives the carillon a unique sound which becomes, with familiarity, a thing of richness and beauty. North America now has about 180 carillons, many owned by churches or colleges and universities. Relatively few are like Luray's, in free standing towers (called campaniles) surrounded by public park land.

Jesse L. Ratcliffe, Carillonneur, is a native of Hinton, a one-stop light town in southern West Virginia. He is a graduate of Concord University, Athens, WV (BA) and Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, VA (MM). Since the age of twelve he has served as a church musician in several denominations; currently he is the Director of Music at St. James Episcopal Church in Warrenton and the former Director of the Staunton Choral Society. He has taught and served as carillonneur at Concord University and Hollins University. Jesse has been honored to study privately and in master classes with Dr. Stephen Cooksey, Shenandoah; Dr. Roberta Gary, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music; Dr. Walden Moore, Yale Institute of Sacred Music; and Robin Austin, carillonneur of the North American Carillon School.
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Luray Singing Tower Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
14 reviews
TripAdvisor
  • We happened to visit the park as the player of the bells was practicing for that night's concert. The music was beautiful. It was so nice to play with the family with the pretty tower and pond in the ...  more »
  • As we stepped out of our car in Luray, the bells were ringing. We walked around the tower and park and enjoyed the peacefulness  more »
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