By Whom the Bells Toll

By | April 11, 2013

Born in Manhattan on February 10, 1931, Dionisio Lind has been The Riverside Church’s main carillonneur since 2000. Carillons originated in the European “low countries” in the sixteenth century, and according to the World Carillon Federation, they must have at least twenty-three bronze bells and must form a fully chromatic scale. The carillonneur plays on a keyboard using his or her fists to play the keys, known as batons, and stepping on a pedal keyboard.

Having grown up playing piano and listening to jazz and gospel, Lind first learned to play the carillon in the 1950s from a Dutchman hired to play at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Harlem, where Lind was baptized. The church eventually sent Lind to study at the Royal Carillon School in Mechelen, Belgium, where he trained for six months in the 1960s. He held the carillonneur position at St. Martin’s for twenty-five years.

Lind first played at Riverside Church, home to one of the world’s largest carillons, in 1971 for the funeral of prominent civil rights leader Whitney Moore Young. In 2000 he was asked to come on board as Riverside’s principal carillonneur.

Officially “The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon,” the instrument was gifted to the church by John D. Rockefeller Jr., in memory of his mother, and installed in 1932. With seventy-four solid bronze bells, it weights over 100 tons and is the world’s first to range five musical octaves. The church’s tower rises 392 feet and has an open-air observation deck right above the carillons, providing a 360-degree view of the city, although it has been closed to the public since 2001.

Lind performs recitals on Sundays at 10:30, 12:30 and 3:00 p.m.

Clockwise from top left: The bourdon (main bell) for Riverside Church's carillon in Croydon, England (1928); being loaded on to a ship headed for New York; arriving in New York; on a crate displaying the name of its builder, Gillett & Johnston; and after it was mounted on the Riverside Church tower (All images courtesy of Riverside Church)
Clockwise from top left: The bourdon (main bell) for Riverside Church’s carillon in Croydon, England (1928); being loaded on to a ship headed for New York; arriving in New York; on a crate displaying the name of its builder, Gillett & Johnston; and after it was mounted on the Riverside Church tower (All images courtesy of Riverside Church)

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Emon Hassan, Narratively’s Director of Video & Multimedia, is a New York-based filmmaker and photographer. He is the founder of the music website Guitarkadia and a regular contributor to The New York Times. You can follow him on Twitter.

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