28 Feb 2023 The harmonies of Heber Springs
By Donna Lampkin Stephens
A gift from home fragrance icon Aromatique to the city of Heber Springs nearly 30 years ago continues to bring a down-home atmosphere to the community.
A Schulmerich Tyme Stryke Carillon 115 plays bells from the Cleburne County Courthouse on the hour from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., sending out tunes from the tower that can be heard for nearly 10 blocks.
According to schulmerichcarillons.com, “Nothing demonstrates harmony more than hearing bells ring. Imagine hearing hourly chimes and music pealing from Town Hall, Town Square, a civic center, the library or cultural center, the museum, a city park, or an historic downtown area. Wherever the location, carillons add majesty and a sense of peace that unites communities together.”
Chad Evans, president and chief operating officer of Aromatique, which celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding in Heber Springs last year, said the company just wanted to give back to the community.
“This community has been good to us,” he said.
He credited Dick Upton, husband of Aromatique’s late founder Patti Upton, for the idea.
“He was usually thinking about something like that for the community,” said Evans, who joined the company a year after its founding in 1982. “One of our locations is about two blocks from the courthouse. We bought and donated (the bells) about 1994 or ’95. Aromatique wanted to do something for the county. We thought that would add something to downtown Heber Springs.
“It’s something a little different for people to remember their visit to Heber Springs.”
He said he still gets positive feedback, particularly in fall and spring.
“I hear about it especially on cool, crisp mornings or afternoons as people walk down the street,” he said. “It brings something back to them. We have Christmas bells, bells for the Fourth of July. As you hear them, it makes it sound like small-town USA.”
A carillon is a set of fixed chromatically tuned bells sounded by hammers controlled from a keyboard. AutoBelCards are inserted like the old floppy disks, and programmers choose playlists, which can include patriotic hymns such as “America the Beautiful” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic”; popular patriotic selections such as “God Bless America,” “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy;” songs of love, including “Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”; popular selections such as “Moon River,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Yesterday,” “Hello Dolly” and “Climb Every Mountain”; as well as classical music and German folk songs.
And, of course, Christmas carols, including “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Silent Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “The First Noel,” “What Child Is This,” “Deck the Halls,” “Away in a Manger” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” Evans said the bells are usually programmed related to the season.
According to the company website, “Schulmerich electronic carillons are widely known to have the most realistic bell sounds of any manufactured in the world.” The company’s founder, George J. Schulmerich, “revolutionized the art of bell making” and “invented the ‘electro-mechanical’ carillon when he discovered that tiny rods of cast bronze struck with miniature hammers produced audible and pure bell tones that could be amplified electronically to produce a rich, sonorous tone. He called his invention carillonic bells.”
Evans said his wife, Cleburne County Clerk Rachelle Evans, whose office formerly oversaw programming of the bells, reported that if the bells were offline for a period of time, people would notice.
“She said it was amazing how many people call and say, ‘The bells are out; the bells aren’t ringing,’” Evans said.
A few years ago, lightning damaged the bells in the 1914 Jeffersonian Revival-style courthouse, and when insurance didn’t cover the damage, Aromatique had them repaired and updated.
“They do their purpose,” Evans said. “They draw interest to Heber Springs.”
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