In the tower of Duke University Chapel is a 50-bell carillon, played on weekdays at 5:00 p.m. and before and after Sunday worship services and special events. There are about 200 winding steps to the top but yesterday I was privileged to ride the elevator up with the University’s carillonneur, Samuel Hammond.
This was my first time to see a carillon up close and personal, although I have seen videos, it doesn’t compare with being right there as the only other person in the small room. As you can see the carillon has batons arranged like an organ manual and pedalboard. You use your fists to play, with your feet on the pedalboard, not unlike an organ.
What I was very aware was that Sam kept his eyes on the music, which was kept in place with long strings since it’s pretty windy up there with the windows open.
I noticed his lack of looking down at the keyboard because it is one of the things I like to emphasize in my teaching. Don’t look at your hands! Don’t look at your feet! Keep your eyes glued to the music! … but of course the carillon batons are spaced a lot wider than a regular keyboard—so I was definitely in awe.
The night before, Joey Fala and I were treated to a delightful Mexican dinner with Sam and his wife, Marie, and had so much fun!
We then drove to the former site of a tobacco factory which has been turned into a retail and restaurant complex. On one corner of the property is the original cabin of the founder of Burt’s Bees, and an elaborate waterway feature with a large waterfall. Reminded me of a mini Niagara Falls!