GVSU rings in 24th Annual Carillon Concert Series

The clock tower on GVSUs Allendale campus has a 44 bell carillon. GVSU has two of the 14 carillons in the state of Michigan.

GVL/Archive The clock tower on GVSU’s Allendale campus has a 44 bell carillon. GVSU has two of the 14 carillons in the state of Michigan.

Nick Moran

Behind the walls of the Cook and Beckering Family Carillon Towers is far more than just clockwork. Forty-eight intricately crafted bells fill the carillons on each of Grand Valley’s campuses – bells that fill the surrounding areas with sound throughout GVSU’s 24th Annual Carillon Concert Series. 

The series, organized by University Carilloneur Julianne Vanden Wyngaard, spans from July 1 through Aug. 19 between both of GVSU’s carillons. Vanden Wyngaard said that the series provides audiences with access to a style of performance that’s unique to the carillon.

“It’s a little bit unusual because the instrument is outside, the audience is outside,” Vanden Wyngaard said. “A person sits in a carillon concert unable to see the performer or the instrument, so that’s unusual as well. And we play rain or shine.”

The concert on July 1 in Allendale, the series’ first, was performed by three of Vanden Wyngaard’s students due to knee surgery rendering her unable to play. Last Sunday’s concert featured carilloneur Lee Cobb from Cape Coral, Florida. 

Looking forward, other concerts will feature a variety of carilloneurs from around the United States. Vanden Wyngaard, who is also president of the Guild of Carilloneurs in North America, was able to use her leadership to assemble a diverse set of players throughout the network. 

“(As guild president), I have access to all of the carilloneurs in North America,” Vanden Wyngaard said. “Our membership on paper is less than 800, so we know each other… and you know who you want in your series.”

Vanden Wyngaard said that the carilloneurs bring with them individualized programs that create concerts full of diverse music. Musical genres range from classical arrangements to popular music, but programs are often tailored to be generally agreeable due to the open nature of the concert. 

“You try to plan players who are going to take that (it’s a public concert) into consideration and not come with music that’s so esoteric that the person there on Sunday afternoon can’t enjoy it,” Vanden Wyngaard said. “I don’t want them to come with a total popular music program either, but you want a varied program that is well played so the average person can sit and enjoy it.”

Between bringing various players to each carillon, Vanden Wyngaard said that each concert will have an individualized flair to it based on he bells themselves. 

“(The carillons are) like two cooks,” Vanden Wyngaard said. “You may like this restaurant or that restaurant, but the difference in restaurants are the cooks and the way that they season the food.” 

The concert series follows a tradition set in stone since the creation of the Cook Carillon in 1994. With the Cook Carillon’s bells crafted in the Netherlands and the Beckering Family’s made in France, Vanden Wyngaard said that each carillon’s unique sound is one that she plans to continue to bring to the communities for many years to come. 

“The French bells are very rich, and you’d say they’re kind of luscious,” Vanden Wyngaard said. “On the outside, you don’t feel that, but we do. The Dutch bells are just clean, crisp and really quite wonderful to play. We’re very lucky to have these instruments.”

The concert series will continue on the Allendale campus Sundays at 8 p.m. through Aug. 19 and on Wednesdays at noon through Aug. 1 at the Pew campus.