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The Delaware Symphony Orchestra's Bells of Remembrance Move to a New Home

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It’s not every day you see two tons of metal and mallet make their way through the streets of Wilmington, or the administrative staff of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra doing manual labor.

But this was no ordinary day. This was moving day for the seven large-scale bells donated to the DSO last December by Wilmington’s Franciscan Center. The bells come from the Bells of Remembrance collection assembled by the Franciscans following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The project was spearheaded by Brother David Schlatter in memory of his mentor, Mychal Judge, a Franciscan friar who was chaplain of the New York City Fire Department and among the first victims of the attacks.

The bells have been renamed the William Kerrigan Symphony Bells of Remembrance in honor of the symphony’s long-time principal percussionist who worked with Schlatter to identify and secure the bells.

Delaware Symphony Orchestra's Bells of Remembrance

Photo by Jim Coarse, Moonloop Photography

Ranging in weight from 150 to 1,200 pounds, each bell is tuned to a specific pitch required for a specific piece of music. The gift puts the DSO in the enviable position of being one of only a few orchestras to have such a collection.

“It’s not every piece that requires a bell,” says music director David Amado, in whose garage the bells were temporarily housed. “But when a bell is needed, to have access to the actual instrument elevates the entire experience.”

The symphony had been exploring options for permanent placement when an opportunity presented itself. Richard Diver, president of Diver Chevrolet in Wilmington, offered space in his service facility near Greenhill and Lancaster avenues.

“My parents were neighbors of the Amados and big supporters of the DSO, so I’m just happy to help,” he says.

So, on a dreary May morning, DSO executive director Alan Jordan pulled up to the Amado home in a pickup truck equipped with a trailer and a winch. He was accompanied by patron relations associate Michael Mekailek and technical director Stephen Manocchio. The trio arrived with lots of gut and gumption—not to mention muscle power—because as Jordan once remarked: “Moving a 1,200-pound bell cannot be left to UPS.”

The bells were taken to the Diver facility in three trips: two on the first trip, three on the second. The third trip took a bell known as “The Kerrigan” and the 1,200-pound bell, which objected most strenuously to the notion of being moved. Amado had to join the others to “coax” it onto the trailer. (Jordan requested that expletives not appear in print. For the record, none were uttered.)

The final trip made a pit stop at The Grand where “The Kerrigan” was lifted onto the stage in preparation for its participation two nights later in a performance of Respighi’s “Fountains of Rome.”

“It will be heard,” says Amado. “It will be soft, as will be the orchestra at that point, but it will be heard.”

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