The ringing, ringing, ringing of the bells, bells, bells

Some dressed in suits and ties, others in shorts and flip-flops, hundreds of students, faculty, and alumni packed Rockefeller Memorial Chapel this past Saturday for a concert to rededicate the chapel's E. M. Skinner pipe organ and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller carillon. Listeners, many of them children, stood pressed against the building's walls or sat, legs folded, on the stone floor. More than one audience member remarked that they'd "never seen the chapel so full."

The weekend performance constituted a coming-out party for the two instruments, following a three-year, $3 million restoration project that gave each a more powerful, more nuanced sound. Calling the event "a celebration of two University gems," Vice President and Dean of Students Kim Goff-Crews welcomed several special guests, among them former Rockefeller dean Alison Boden and former University president (and musicologist) Don Randel, who helped spearhead the restoration.

Kicking off at 4:40 p.m., the concert stretched past nightfall. Four University choirs accompanied organist Thomas Weisflog, SM'69, and carillonneur Wylie Crawford, MAT'70, and the program included organ pieces commissioned for the event from William Bolcom and Chicago music professor Marta Ptaszynska. Audience members had planned to assemble on the lawn after the organ performance to hear the carillon, but just after 7 p.m., as the final notes of "I was Glad When They Said Unto Me" faded from the organ's pipes, rain began to fall. When the downpour let up 15 minutes later, the bravest listeners made their way outdoors as Crawford warmed up the carillon and dusk began to fall.

Listen to the restored organ.

Laurie Jorgensen and Lydialyle Gibson

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Photos (left to right): Carillonneur Wylie Crawford crouches beneath one of the carillon's restored bells; Crawford and organist Thomas Weisflog smile in front of the organ, which now includes 8,565 pipes; after the rain stops, listeners gather outside to hear the carillon.

Left and center photos by Dan Dry; right photo by Laurie Jorgensen.

June 11, 2008