The original German word “glockenspiel” is literally translated into English as “bells play”; a more idiomatic translation might be “musical bells”. In German usage it may be applied to any carillon-sized or chime-sized tower bell instrument which plays music.
The Bavarian Inn Glockenspiel Tower houses a magnificent 35-bell carillon, a beautiful figurine movement and an illuminated clock, all imported from Germany! Before striking the hour, and on each quarter hour, the clock sounds the 5-bell Westminster chime.
At Noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. each day the Bavarian Inn Glockenspiel plays several selections which are immediately followed by figurine movement depicting the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Frankenmuth’s Glockenspiel and Pied Piper
The sound of a 35-bell Glockenspiel is echoing for miles around the town of Frankenmuth with lively German and American tunes and hymns. The sound is originating from a 50-foot bell tower where installation of specially cast carillon bells and figurework for the Pied Piper of Hamelin was completed in October, 1967. The tower, which was built in traditional Bavarian style architecture, can be seen from roads leading into Frankenmuth from the south.
Beneath the bells is a large stage where carved wooden figures moving on tracks act out the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin dates back to the 13th Century and tells of a plague of rats in the German town of Hamelin.
In Frankenmuth’s tower, all of the figures from the Pied Piper legend are included in the mechanism which is operated by a clock. Figures 4½ feet high were carved in wood from the Black Forest of Germany. They are impregnated with plastic for weather resistance and gaily painted in the distinctive costumes of the 13th Century. Moving on the four separate tracks are the Pied Piper, 14 other figures from the story and, of course, the horde of rats.
Several times each day, the figures appear on a movable stage on the bell tower as the story unfolds before visiting adults and children. The figures move around the stage and disappear through copper doors as scenes change and the story progresses.
Just below the movable stage of the Pied Piper is a large clock face with gold-covered numerals. The hands are copper with leaf-gold covering. Five-bell Westminster chimes sound the hour.
Construction of the tower and all of its attractions was carefully completed as authentically as possible. The Tower itself, constructed of structural steel, is finished with stucco matching the existing Bavarian Inn. The roof is covered with concrete roof tile taken from the old Saginaw Zoo (the only real Bavarian-type tile available in this area).
The carillon uses a special double keyboard which gives the sound of 70 bells. The bells were cast by Eijsbouts Bellfounders of Asten, Holland, world famous for the casting of carillon bells. They were shipped from Holland to Buer, Germany – near Osnabrueck – where they were assembled for the Glockenspiel by Korfhage and Soehne. Korfhage and Soehne is world renowned for its design and construction of Glockenspiel, Uhrenanlagen (clock works) and Figurenemlaufe (figure movements). The company is nearly 200 years old.
After the Glockenspiel was assembled and tested, it was disassembled for shipment to Frankenmuth where it arrived in mid-October, 1967. Trained technicians then installed it in the bell tower. The bells, which play selections several times every day, are operated by a special mechanism; they may also be played manually by a carillonneur for special occasions.
Der Piper Von Hamelin (The story of Pied Piper of Hamelin)
Seven hundred years ago in the beautiful town of Hamelin located on the Weser River, there occurred a terrible plague of rats. No one in all the town knew a cure for the dreadful condition. One day there came into the town, a stranger. The strange man was dressed in brightly colored clothes and sang to them a song telling of his great skill for ridding the town of the hideous rats. He asked but a penny for each rat he removed. The town council agreed and the Mayor of the town told the stranger to proceed with the deed.
Late that night when the moon was full, the man pulled from his pocket a silver flute and began to play a melody both strange and enticing. The piper strolled down the street playing his pipe and lo and behold, from every cellar, larder, dark hole and crevice came rats by the dozen, then fifty, then hundreds. The magical notes of the melodies drew the entranced creatures from each narrow street in a long gray winding procession. On and on the rats followed the piper who charmed them right into the River Weser where they were horribly drowned.
The citizens watched with amazement from windows and cracks; the piper had forbade them to be in the streets. The relief of deliverance from the appalling creatures was great. However, such an astonishing feat seemed to be a black art and the citizens were filled with suspicion. They felt the stranger was in league with the devil. When the piper came for his money, the Aldermen and the Mayor had conferred and the Mayor refused to pay the promised fee. The cheated piper refused the small token payment that was offered. Instead, with a great bitterness, he gave a serious warning of the evil to come. The people shrugged off the threat with a smile (after all the rats were gone) and without further ado, drove the piper from the town.
Then, on a Sunday the piper came back. All the parents were attending church and the children were happily playing in the streets; the piper appeared and pulled out his flute. The melodies that followed were more strange and unknown than those played in the past. The children stopped at their play and ran forward with laughter and song to follow the piper through the streets. Small children and older ones alike ran forth after him, afraid to miss the fun, unaware they were becoming entranced. They followed through the Bungelosenstrasse, the street where no music has ever again been played, and from there through the east gate they were drawn from the town, on to the Seven Hills land where they vanished through a rock into the mountain.
Two children, one lame and one blind, could not keep up the pace and were left behind. They related the sorrowful story to the wretched parents who made a long search to no avail. The children had disappeared from the city, forever, never to be seen again.
Today in the Bungelosenstrasse, in the house called the rat-catcher’s house, is still to be seen the old rhyme, carved in a beam, which tells of this historic event.