On the next three Thursdays, there will be free hour-long carillon concerts at St. John’s Cathedral, each beginning at 7 p.m. Free is really the only possibility with a tower full of bells, but while the ringing sound is unfettered by design, audiences are furthermore encouraged to bring blankets and chairs to enjoy the performances from the Cathedral lawns.
The concert includes a tour of the Cathedral, a chance to meet the artist and a demonstration of the carillon at the practice keyboard in the church crypt. Persons hoping to see the big bells up close and personally will be disappointed: Ascending the tower is treacherous enough for one and would be impossible for the multitudes.
The carillon is a mechanical instrument; the performing carillonneur pushes levers which are linked by direct lines to the clappers of the bells. This allows the musician to control the “touch” on the keyboard as a pianist does, and to play with dynamic contrasts.
St. John’s carillon consists of 49 bronze bells which cover the chromatic notes of four octaves. The highest pitched bell weighs 17 pounds, the largest and lowest weighs 2 1/2 tons. The set was cast by the John Taylor Bell Foundry in Loughborough, England and was installed in 1968.
The concert next Thursday features Beverly Buchanan, carillonneur for Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. She holds her music degrees from the University of Michigan and has been an active member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America for 25 years, serving as Chairman of the Music Publication Committee.
Her program will range from the Baroque to the patriotic, and will include her own arrangements and transcriptions of music for guitar by Gragnani, Carulli and Diabelli, as well as some hymns and their preludes.
The guest artist for the July 20 performance is Dr. Reginald Walker, an endocrinologist from Sydney, Australia. President of the Carillon Society of Australia, he is the honorary carillonist at the University of Sydney. He has performed in the British Isles, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Spain.
Walker’s recital will feature traditional music from around the globe, from the Philippines and Aboriginal Australia to Israel and the Ukraine, with plenty of familiar stops along the way. He will also perform three original compositions by Australians.
The July 27 concert will be performed by David Osborn, assistant carillonneur at the University of California-Berkeley, where he is a graduate student in chemistry. A former theory and composition student at the University of Chicago, he now studies the carillon with Ronald Barnes in Berkeley.
For more information on the Thursday evening carillon concerts, contact St. John’s Cathedral at 838-4277.