Ring out, wild bells


Wylie Crawford, MAT’70, the University of Chicago’s carillonneur, flutters his hand up and down as he hums through a few bars of Pachelbel’s Canon, one of ten pieces he will play during his free hour-long recital August 15. As melodic as his humming is, he promises that the song sounds better on the carillon. “You can get amazing musical effects,” Crawford says, gesturing up toward Rockefeller Chapel’s lofty tower, where the instrument resides.

Rockefeller’s annual summer concert series, dubbed Carillonathon, presents an opportunity for Crawford to invite musicians from all over the world to campus. This year guest carilloneurs come from as far away as the Netherlands and as nearby as Naperville, Illinois. The performers choose their own programs, sometimes arranging the pieces themselves, so the recitals represent “whatever people are interested in working on at this particular moment.”

Every carillon is different, but playing the University’s is a special experience, Crawford says, because it’s “a real monster.” Weighing more than 100 tons (approximately the size of the new giant “bean” sculpture in the city’s Millennium Park), Chicago’s carillon is the second largest in the world.

This past Sunday a small crowd listened to Linda Dzuris, from Clemson, South Carolina, perform folk songs from Spain, America, and the British Isles. While a few people chose to climb the bell tower and sit with Dzuris as she played, most of the audience, including Crawford, sat scattered across Rockefeller’s lawn, reading, picnicking, and enjoying the tolling of this rare instrument.

Carillonathon continues at 6 p.m. every Sunday through August 22.

Leila S. Sales, ’06

Photos: listeners lounge on Rockefeller's lawn (top); university carillonneur Wylie Crawford, MAT'70 (bottom).

July 19, 2004