I went straight to the top of the Carillon Tower to find your answer. Lyle Anderson began his carillon studies with Professor John W. Harvey in the mid-1960s, and has served as university carillonneur since 1986. “I think the Bach piece was more likely ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ rather than ‘Sleepers Wake,’” Anderson says. “Professor Harvey had us work on a simple but effective arrangement of ‘Jesu’ as one of the first real compositions we learned — an arrangement I still play on the carillon from time to time.” Anderson still plays the carillon at 1:00 p.m. during the school year, but only on Wednesdays and Fridays. And he rarely plays the same piece more than once or twice a semester.
Anderson went on to say that your question reminded him of a note he found in the tower, likely dating back to the late 1970s, which read: “I like the tune ‘Amazing Grace’ too, but do you have to practice it EVERY single day at 2:30 p.m.?” For a long time, he didn’t know what to make of the note, until he learned that an enterprising student had programmed the automated mechanism to play this tune every weekday at the same time, in much the same way as the clockwork makes sound patterns at 15-minute intervals throughout the day. The original automated mechanism, which is now more computerized, wasn’t installed in the tower until spring 1973, so anything heard from the tower before then was made by a real human being. In the 1960s, students played during the longer class-change period from 12:55 to 1:20 p.m. “So perhaps someone, or even several students in succession, played this Bach piece often,” Anderson says. “I rather doubt, however, that it was every day.”