Keep calm and carillon

A celebration to the instrument that creates the iconic sounds of the River Campus
Image
A close up of one of the bells from the Hopeman carillon

Do you have fond memories of rushing across the Eastman quad, smelling the crisp leaves of the red oaks, admiring the beautiful metalwork of the Rush Rhees doors, and hearing the sound of bells chiming a tune? The soundtrack of that memory comes from the University's Hopeman Memorial Carillon.

Who plays the University of Rochester's carillon? Many of the carillonneurs find their way to the top of the Rush Rhees Library through a course in the Department of Music. But it’s not only music majors who play; alumni and community members also join in and provide the musical accompaniment for life at the River Campus.

After a recent restoration of carillon’s bells and mechanisms, Doris Aman, director of carillon activities,  and her carillon class presented a pop-up event in Evans Lam Square called “Keep Calm and Carillon,” a celebration of this iconic and rare instrument, and a presentation of challenges, triumphs, and learning of the students who play it.

As part of their course assignments, the MUR104 class used the event to share their learning. Attendees heard about the results of a student study of audio data that demonstrated a change in the quality of the sound produced by the bells before and after the restoration, and about the unique opportunities students have gained to travel, learn, and meet other scholars through playing the carillon. University of Rochester student carillonneur Alexander Johnson, physics major and recent graduate, shared the news that he had received a

2019 Fulbright scholarship to continue exploring the history, culture, and technology of the carillon this summer in Belgium.

For many students, the carillon is a mystery. Thanks to WRUR, attendees got a live look at the carillonneurs in more ways than one; using a camera and a link set up between the carillon’s keyboard and a screen in Lam Square, attendees watched the carillonneurs play live. The students in the cabin up at the top of Rush Rhees Library took requests from Lam Square, and played some audience favorites, including Henry Mancini's Moon River, selections from Gilbert and Sullivan, and River Flows in You, by Yiruma, a popular Korean-American musician. WRUR graciously shared the recording of these performances.

During the event, Lam Square was decorated with examples of the materials and elements of the carillon, renderings of its workings, and documents and images from its history at the University of Rochester, making for a hands-on experience as well as an auditory one.

Students, faculty, and community members who play the Hopeman Memorial Carillon relished the opportunity to share their love of it in Lam Square: Doris Aman said, "I know every carillonneur in America would drool to have this opportunity."

Rochester student Woody Wu was surprised and delighted by the event. He told us, "I finally found out the sound that we heard every day is not coming from speakers, but from the Carillon, which is so cool."