The carillon is one of the most public of instruments. Situated in bell towers in the heart of public spaces, carillonneurs perform for entire communities. Though all who wander near the tower will hear the music, most will never know who it is playing the instrument. As performers hidden from view, carillonneurs strive to convince audiences that we are not machines playing the same tunes each day; we are real humans capable of expression and dynamic variation with lots of diverse repertoire.
Composers and arrangers for the carillon like to “think upside down”; rather than give the singing melody line to the soprano, placing the melody in the bass bells, with the higher bells playing harmonic and rhythmic accompaniments, can be very effective.
At the 2017 Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Joey Brink climbed the 271 stairs leading up to the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel’s tower, sat down in front of a 100-ton instrument called the carillon, and opened his “Bell Jazz” performance with this Antonio Carlos Jobim composition.
Rockefeller Chapel has been anointed, and not in the typical sense: There were no denominational ceremonies, no baptisms. No priest was present. Instead, what descended over the chapel was of a different profundity. On Saturday night, the music of two ethereal voices filled the depths of the space, echoes reverberating through its cavernous hall. The source of it all: the Canadian identical twin duo known as Tegan and Sara.
On Saturday, April 29, 7:30 pm, the University of Chicago’s soaring Rockefeller Chapel welcomes celebrated composer Augusta Read Thomas at a concert dedicated entirely to her music, with 2017 Grammy-winning Third Coast Percussion and Grammy-nominated Spektral Quartet.
#2. Kaitlin Foley at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on March 20th. Sometimes the stars are in perfect alignment and a performance comes together—the space is perfectly lit, the singer is in top form, the collaborators and conductor are in lock step, the audience understands the specialness of the moment and doesn't dare make a noise—so that you feel like you are hearing a familiar piece for the first time. And when that piece is "Zerfliesse, mein Herze" your faith in humanity is renewed. Soprano Kaitlin Foley’s performance of this aria was all the more amazing considering that she and her colleagues were presenting Bach’s St. John Passion with one singer per part. Foley has emerged as one of the truly great musicians of this city.
When Simone Browne told her friends and family she had decided to give the carillon a try, they were puzzled. The second-year had stumbled across a Facebook post offering carillon lessons taught by members of the University of Chicago Guild of Carillonneurs at Rockefeller Chapel, and opted to give it a shot, intrigued by the fact that few knew what a carillon was, let alone how to play the instrument.
Randy Weston: 11 p.m., Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. 90 apparently is the new 70, judging by nonagenarian pianist Weston's expansive performance. Playing solo in cavernous Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, Weston offers a freewheeling lecture-recital intertwining his philosophies on the origin of music with his larger-than-life pianism.