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University’s unique bell tower to make public debut

The 63 bells of the 105-foot-tall John Sykes Ars Sonora, on the University of Tampa campus, will ring out for the first time this weekend.

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Thanks to the continued generosity of Sykes Enterprises Inc. Chairman Emeritus John Sykes and his wife, Susan, the University of Tampa, already known for the Sykes College of Business, is now home to one of the most complex and innovative bell towers in the world.

The Ars Sonora structure was topped off in February. (Courtesy photo)
The Ars Sonora structure was topped off in February. (Courtesy photo)

Known as the John Sykes Ars Sonora, the 105-foot tower was made in France by the Paccard Bell Foundry, a company that’s been owned and operated by eight generations of the Paccard family. The firm made the 18,835-pound bell that tolls at the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris, and it has crafted 57 replicas of the Liberty Bell.

Replete with 63 hand-crafted bronze bells, the sculpture is adjacent to UT’s Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values, also named in honor of John Sykes. According to a news release, UT ars sonorist Josh Cessna will play a concert using the bells for the first time on Saturday, Oct. 8, for the UT community. Future public concerts are being planned.

Ars Sonora, the release states, loosely translates to “Art of Sound,” and the amenity is a unique, modern spin on musical bell technology. Traditionally, trained carillonneurs play bells with a cumbersome keyboard that has wooden levers, but UT’s Ars Sonora features digital connectivity that allows a keyboardist to play the bells’ notes in what’s essentially real time.


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