The Floyd and Juanita Smith Carillon at Penn State Behrend resembles a super-sized wind chime. The sound of the chimes conveys far across the Behrend campus, denoting the quarter-hour.
On concert nights, the notes tumble into something else: The waltz from “The Godfather,” possibly, or “Hey Jude,” by the Beatles.
“A concert carillon is a unique instrument,” said Chris Fox, assistant director of civic engagement and the programs at Smith Chapel. “The sound travels, sometimes as much as a mile, and the carillonneur is largely out of view.”
The current year’s Smith Carillon Concert Series starts July 8 with a performance by Tom Gurin, the carillonneur at Duke University Chapel. He learned at the Royal Carillon School “Jef Denyn” in Belgium, which was established in 1922. Not long from now, he will start a yearlong residency as a Fulbright Scholar in Paris.
Gurin’s performance at Behrend will incorporate Broadway standards — songs from “The Sound of Music” and “Fiddler on the Roof” — and the 2020 composition “Night Pouring In,” which was composed during the COVID quarantine period.
Three all the more free performances will follow, all start at 7 p.m.:
July 15: Lisa Lonie, the carillonneur at Princeton University, will perform classical works and songs by Billy Joel, Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon. A portion of her program will feature songs that were performed during Super Bowl half-time shows.
July 22: Frank DellaPenna, who has performed on the “Today” show and “America’s Got Talent,” will perform dances, English folk dances and original compositions. He performed at the Mass for Pope John Paul II in New York’s Central Park in 1995.
July 29: Julie Zhu, the carillonneur at St. Thomas Church in New York, will perform classical works, original compositions and a few pop songs, including “Sandcastles,” by Beyonce.
Seating for the Smith Carillon Concert Series is on the lawn of Smith Chapel. Visitors are urged to bring blankets or chairs. The sound carries, notwithstanding, so guests may use different areas of the Behrend campus, away from the 80-foot bell tower.
The Smith Carillon — one of only 166 in the United States — was installed in 2002. The smallest of the 48 bells weighs 15 pounds. The biggest weighs 1,344 pounds.
No springs, levers or electronics are used in a carillon. The carillonneur strikes the chimes by hitting a keyboard-like clavier with a loose fist. The bigger bells are hit with a foot pedal.
The carillonneur performs in a small room at the top of the bell tower. A live video feed from that room to a screen on the chapel’s patio adds to the Behrend concert experience.
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