Structure will commemorate town’s history, culture
Henri Dill is a wisp of a woman with twinkling, intelligent eyes who calls you “dear,” accompanied by a light touch on your arm with her fingertips.

The diminutive Dill is the owner of Engelberg Antiks in Mt. Angel and Engelberg Antiks II on Liberty St. in downtown Salem. She also is the director of a Mt. Angel project that soon will place the country’s tallest (49 feet) glockenspiel into the clock tower of the new Edelweiss Building, currently being constructed on Charles Street in downtown Mt. Angel.

In early August, she was in the final stretches of getting together the Glockenspiel’s seven carved basswood figures: Papa Oom-Pa, tuba-man; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Zollner, pioneer Mt. Angel community leaders; a Kalapuya brave; Mt. Angel Abbey’s Prior Adelhelm Odermatt; Mathias Butsch, an early Mt. Angel builder; Sister Bernadine Wachter of the Benedictine Sisters Convent, and children on a garden swing.

If you don’t already know that all of this activity is connected to the 39th Annual Mt. Angel Oktoberfest, you haven’t noticed what the national travel and tourism industry has noticed since 1967 — one of the most authentic and lively Bavarian harvest festivals in the country.

Although the building will be completed later in the year, the Glockenspiel’s figures, powered by a specially built gear mechanism and given voice through local talent, will have its debut “performance” on September 14.

But first a bit of history:

“Glockenspiel” is German for “playing of bells,” and the name actually refers to a musical instrument similar to a xylophone. The term “glockenspiel,” though, has been co-opted by the well-known bells-and-moving-figures mechanisms placed into churches or other buildings. The best-known and most famous of them all is the Rathaus-Glockenspiel in Munich, Germany.

Traditionally, glockenspiels have been built to celebrate historic and cultural events. Munich’s tells the ancient story of Bavaria’s military and communal past with its 32 life-sized moving figures, bell music and chimes.

The Mt. Angel Glockenspiel similarly is meant to tell the story of this small Swiss-Bavarian-German community in the heart of the mid-Willamette Valley.

Each “performance” lasts exactly six entertaining minutes — at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. every day (as well as midnight on Oktoberfest evenings).

After the large clock strikes the hour, the Kalapuya brave will appear from behind closed doors, bells will chime and a song with drums will play.

Then, in order, and always after bell music, the pioneer couple appears, accompanied by Mt. Angel community members’ recorded playing of fiddle tunes and sound effects; Matthias Butsch to a local woodwind trio and quintet; Prior Adelhelm to the chanting of Mt. Angel Abbey monks; Sister Bernadine to the singing of Benedictine Convent nuns; and “Papa Oom Pa” to a local polka band.

The production ends after the children swing to the song, “Edelweiss,” sung by children from St. Mary’s Grade School.

Dill said the Glockenspiel’s total cost of about $50,000 has been provided almost entirely by the people of Mt. Angel.

“The Mt. Angel Oktoberfest contributed $9,030; $5,000 came from the community foundation, and the current descendants of the Butsch and Zollner families — who still live in the community — have funded their ancestors’ figures,” Dill said.

The community foundation will own the Glockenspiel figures and its works when the project is completed, she said.

The top two and a half floors of the Edelweiss Building — painted but not currently occupied — later will contain “affordable senior housing,” operated by the Marion County Housing Authority.

Dill and her husband, Ernest, own the bottom floor of the building. The Gasthaus Restaurant, Jamie’s Barbershop, one other small retail store and the latest iteration of Engelberg Antiks will occupy the other available space there.

“The Glockenspiel will be the story of the history of Mt. Angel,” Dill said. “The carving work, the figures that represent important people in the history of the community, the music, the voices, the people who funded and worked on it, all of it is local.”