Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Deagan Tower Chimes Resurrected at Heinz Hall

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Deagan Tower Chimes Resurrected at Heinz Hall

Article excerpt

As patrons gather in Heinz Hall this weekend, they will hear renowned composer Gustav Mahler's "Resurrection," along with a set of breathtaking, bronze tower chimes - a new and permanent addition to the theater.

For the first time in decades, one of 440 original sets by the J.C. Deagan Co. will fill the hall for an extraordinary performance. The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and guest vocalists will perform this revolutionary arrangement. There also will be an exhibit about the Deagan chimes in the hall over the weekend.

Interested in the science of sound, John Calhoun Deagan developed a method of fine-tuning instruments that has altered musicians' lives for more than 100 years.

"The sound travels for many miles from the church belfry," said Andrew Reamer, a percussionist in the Pittsburgh Symphony, in an email. "I like to think that many more thousands of people will enjoy these impressive chimes for many years in Heinz Hall."

Years ago, a colleague introduced Mr. Reamer to the exquisite sound of Deagan tower chimes.

Mr. Reamer contacted William Pugh, an expert instrument restorer, and asked to be notified if any chimes were on the market. A church in Rockford, Ill., wanted to sell its chimes.

The 20-note set of chimes was installed in Bethesda Evangelical Covenant Church in 1928, according to the PSO's blog. The church removed the chimes to fix its roof in November 2016, but could not afford to restore both the roof and the chimes.

"I think we got them for the 'scrap price!' " Mr. Reamer said.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Association purchased them earlier this year for $8,000 - a third less than what they cost new. Mr. Reamer rushed to Illinois with a crew and an empty truck, not knowing what work lay ahead of them.

It took hours of "soaking, scrubbing and polishing" to restore decades of residue, and Bill Weaver, PSO stage technician, created a unique method to clean the chimes, according to its blog. Each chime was suspended in vinegar for at least 24 hours.

Additionally, each tower chime is 5 to 7 inches in diameter and ranges from 5- to nearly 14-feet tall, according to the blog.

"Each hammer weighs about 35 pounds," Mr. …

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