Carillon Concert Series makes return to GV Allendale campus


GVL/Meghan Tripp (Landgren)

Ayron Rutan, Staff Writer

The Carillon Concert Series recently made its return to Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus for the first time since 2019.

Each Sunday in July, the public was welcome to come to the campus for a free open-air concert at the Cook Carillon Tower. 

The series was originally created in 1996 by former GVSU carillonneur Julianne Vanden Wyngaard. Vanden Wyngaard is a noted concert pianist and carillonneur who joined the music faculty at GVSU in 1967 and has been the principal performer and teacher at the Cook Carillon Tower since its dedication in 1994.

The unique qualities of the carillon inspired Vanden Wyngaard to begin the music series. The instrument has a set of at least 23 bells that are played with a keyboard and tuned in chromatic order to create harmonies.

With Vanden Wyngaard’s long history at GVSU and the Carillon Concert Series, she said she felt excited for the performance’s return after an over two year hiatus and was excited to share the live music with the public again. 

“It was a real pleasure to be able to book guests for an abbreviated recital series and our work has not been in vain,” Vanden Wyngaard said. “We have attracted many listeners to each recital.” 

Vanden Wyngaard said she felt it was important to share the carillon’s music with the public in a way that was more significant than short jingles at the top of the hour. 

It seemed fitting to have guest performers share their musical skills and help the Grand Valley community learn to appreciate the beautiful instrument that graces our campus,” Vanden Wyngaard said. “Normally, most people only hear the clock chimes, a short piece at noon including the Alma Mater and the recitals offer the opportunity to hear the full scope of the capabilities of the instrument. And it is an instrument capable of much more than tolling the hours.”

Vanden Wyngaard organized this year’s series and specifically designed the performances to include a variety of musical pieces. Concerts have included selected pieces from carillonneurs all over the country including Helen Hofmeister, Eva Albalghiti, Laura Ellis and Jim Fackenthal. 

Each installment of the series featured pieces made specifically for the musical elements of the instrument itself and recognizable songs that can make an impact on the listener. In an interview with GVNext, Vanden Wyngaard noted that the instrument has the ability to create a natural connection between people. 

“I like to educate the audience, but I also want them to go away humming a tune,” Vanden Wyngaard told GVNext. “I try to play something that the audience can identify with.”

Vanden Wyngaard headed the concert held on July 3 which featured patriotic pieces in recognition of Independence Day. She said she wanted the music to be rather familiar to the audience, fun to play and appropriate for the holiday.

She played pieces such as “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin and “America the Beautiful” by Samuel A. Ward and Milford Myhre. 

The Carillon Concert Series series will make its return next year, however visitors to the GVSU Allendale campus can continue to hear the carillons chime each day until then.