Thursday, October 1, 2009

Remsen Barn Days Festival (Part 2: The Carillon)

The highlight of our day at Remsen was discovering Cast In Bronze and their traveling carillon. We heard the music from across a parking lot and were just drawn to it.

A carillon "is a musical instrument that is usually housed in a free-standing bell tower, or the belfry of a church or other municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to play a melody, or sounded together to play a chord. A carillon is played by striking a keyboard called a "baton" with the fists and by pressing the keys of a pedal keyboard with the feet. The keys mechanically activate levers and wires that connect to metal clappers that strike the bells, allowing the performer, the carillonneur, to vary the intensity of the note according to the force applied to the key."
Sure, it may sound kind of boring to any non-music-geeks, but it's absolutely captivating to watch and listen to. And the guy doesn't just play the instrument, it's a theatric performance.

The carillon player (ie: the "Spirit of the Bells") was such a nice guy! He was autographing CDs and DVDs and took pictures with people and would just talk with you. He was a very approachable guy (if you're not intimidated by the mask!) Here he is with my Grandma...

Mom was at the table that was selling CDs and DVDs and was talking to a man about how she used to play handbells. So the man invited her to go up and sit at the carillon. Mom was intimidated at first and was going to decline, and the man says "It's my carillon! I own it. I can invite you up if I want!"

I thought the "Spirit of the Bells" had cool boots. He told me that they primarily play at renaissance faires.
I originally had a theory that the carillon player was masked because they do more than one of these performances at a time, but I read (via wikipedia) that the reason is much less practical and much more symbolic..."the musician was hidden from view within the cabin of the bell tower so the carillonneur was never seen. Thus the reason why Frank wears a black costume while performing. His face is concealed by a golden phoenix mask. All but his hands and eyes are covered as a symbolic gesture to downplay his identity and role in creating the music."

Although I am still curious if he is training other carillonneurs to follow after him... the "Spririt of the Bells" I saw and spoke to sounded very young. Plus his mask was silver instead of gold.

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