Eijsbouts and Petit-Fritsen merger challenges

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Eijsbouts and Petit-Fritsen merger challenges

Postby FrancesNewell on Mon Feb 24, 2014 7:13 pm

I am curious about how the merger of Eijsbouts and Petit- Fritsen foundries will affect the sound quality and playing of future carillons.
25 of St. George's bells were given in 1934, but the low Eb was given in 2001.

I'm amazed that the Taylor Foundry matched it so well with the other bells that it does not sound ANY different!

However, that was the same foundry!
What if someone wants to add the newly produced merge bells to an older, existing set of bells from either foundry?
What if someone wants to add a missing Eb?

I know that carillon bells are about 79% copper, 20% tin, and other trace alloys.

However, do all the foundries use the exact same mixture of metals?

Don't the different casting methods produce different sounds?

Doesn't it affect the playing action?

I'm guessing that the merger was due to financial pressures, but I hope that they can keep the quality!

Otherwise there could be some nasty clashing bell sounds later!
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Re: Eijsbouts and Petit-Fritsen merger challenges

Postby JohnGouwens on Mon Feb 24, 2014 8:14 pm

First, to comment about St. George's - Taylor keeps detailed tuning records, but also has hung onto all the strickles (or "crooks," as they call them) for shaping their bell molds, so it was probably pretty easy for them to match one of their own instruments. Also, they still mostly follow the same casting method they've always done, so the results would likely be almost identical. When Taylor has added trebles to a couple of old Gillett & Johnston carillons (which are in many ways similar, but not identical), they have had varied success, though the new bells don't really "stick out." In one case, Christ Church in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, the new trebles are fully as good as the G&J bells (and that is truly one of the loveliest examples of G&J bells), but their tuning is in fact somewhat more accurate, so the Taylor bells have just a trifle more "edge" to the sound, in my opinion. (Some people would consider the Taylor bells superior; I consider them excellent but not a perfect match to the existing instrument.)

As for the two Dutch foundries, both follow the same basic casting method (different from the English method), and both have adapted to making their molds with sand along with a binding agent (essentially a cement) rather than the traditional loam. That changes the way in which the bells cool after casting, and is, apparently, the reason that pre-1960 bells from either foundry sound different from their more recent work. (Eijsbouts also made a significant change in the bell profile they were using in the late 1950s, very much to the better.) In comparing the older loam-cast bells to the sand-cast bells, the result tends to be brighter (some would say shrill).

They have stated the intention to keep both styles of bells in production. I'm not sure there is much difference in the bell metal used by the two foundries, mostly 80/20 copper/tin. Some recent Eijsbouts carillons, including the "Bronzen Piano" commissioned by Anna Maria Reverté and Koen van Assche, include a small amount of lead in the bell metal, believed to be a trait of many 16th-century bells, in part intended to "sweeten" the sound, but also, if I understand correctly, to shorten the decay time of the sound. (I welcome corrections to any of this!) The two companies have indeed used somewhat different profiles, especially in the treble range, but notably, Eijsbouts has explored variations on their bell profiles, so the bells they cast now are in some ways different from what they cast 40 years ago.

In addition, Eijsbouts has a long tradition of adding bells to existing instruments. Many of the historic carillons in Holland have trebles added (and in some cases replacements of bells that have corroded) by Eijsbouts in the 1960s that work reasonably well with the existing bells, but clearly are different from the originals. Later efforts, from 1970 onward, they were more careful to match the profile and sound characteristics of the existing instruments, and that is reflected in the drier, somewhat short-ringing treble bells at Antwerp Cathedral and the Utrecht Dom. In contrast, Petit & Fritsen has stayed with the same type of bell no matter what. They're fine bells, but they sometimes don't blend in well with the existing carillon. (The recent re-tuning of the Petit & Fritsen trebles at Mayo Clinic has brought those bells into line with the rather quirky tuning of the Gillett & Johnston originals, and the result is far more cohesive, though the trebles don't sound English.)

There are already a number of carillons in Holland that have some bells from each of the two founders, and even without their making a special effort to match them, they usually work together well. I trust, though, that with the one foundry prepared to produce bells in either style that any enlargements will be made in the same style, particularly with Eijsbouts being the principal company involved.

The mechanism may or may not be different on an addition. It is usually the case that the mechanism to operate added notes isn't in place, and must be built when bells are added (especially if such an addition was never planned). In Europe, for the most part, mechanisms are often replaced entirely by the time they are thirty years or so old (as is about to happen at Antwerp Cathedral), so the playing action would likely be fitted to all at once. It surely is possible to design a mechanism with newer methods that can be adjusted to behave like the older mechanism, though of course the newer actions tend to respond better. (Why not have one note that handles better? Besides, if it had to be put in a remote location, having a responsive action becomes more important.)

Both companies used flexible hinge material for their clapper pivots, most often a product called Suflex is used. Only quite recent Petit & Fritsen carillons (since 2003) used anything else. Therefore, I wouldn't worry, particularly with those two companies, about the challenges of enlarging an instrument by either.
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Re: Eijsbouts and Petit-Fritsen merger challenges

Postby FrancesNewell on Mon Feb 24, 2014 11:25 pm

Wow, thanks for the enlightenment! I guess if they've been around since 1660 and 1872, they're used to such challenges.
It is very interesting to hear how they do this!
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Re: Eijsbouts and Petit-Fritsen merger challenges

Postby JohnGouwens on Mon Feb 24, 2014 11:58 pm

A few more details: Eijsbouts was actually a clockmaker (and in fact built carillons using bells from Gillett & Johnston). Eijsbouts opened its own in-house bellfoundry in 1947.

Frank Fritsen's son wasn't interested in being in the bell business, so that was a significant factor in this merger. The longest-running "in the family" bellfounder is still van den Gheyn/van Aerschot, running from 1506-1943! Andreas Lodewijk van den Gheyn was the last bellfounder bearing that name, but his daughter married Thomas Guillaume van Aerschodt. Thomas died before Andreas Lodewijk did, but succeeding generations of the company were active throughout the rest of the 19th century, up until 1943.

Paul Taylor died in the late 1970s or early 1980s. (Sorry, I don't know exactly.)

Paccard Bellfoundry remains in the same family that founded it in 1796.
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