ERIE, Pa. — The Floyd and Juanita Smith Carillon at Penn State Behrend is like a super-sized wind chime. The sound of the bells carries far across the Behrend campus, marking the quarter-hour.
On concert nights, the notes tumble into something different: The waltz from “The Godfather,” maybe, or “Hey Jude,” by the Beatles.
“A concert carillon is a unique instrument,” said Chris Fox, assistant director of civic engagement and the programs at Smith Chapel. “The sound travels, sometimes as much as a mile, and the carillonneur is largely out of view.”
This year’s Smith Carillon Concert Series begins July 8 with a performance by Tom Gurin, the carillonneur at Duke University Chapel. He studied at the Royal Carillon School “Jef Denyn” in Belgium, which was founded in 1922. Later this year, he will begin a yearlong residency as a Fulbright Scholar in Paris.
Gurin’s performance at Behrend will include Broadway standards — songs from “The Sound of Music” and “Fiddler on the Roof” — and the 2020 composition “Night Pouring In,” which was written during the COVID quarantine period.
Three more free performances will follow, all beginning at 7 p.m.:
- July 15: Lisa Lonie, the carillonneur at Princeton University, will perform classical works and songs by Billy Joel, Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon. A portion of her program will feature songs that were performed during Super Bowl half-time shows.
- July 22: Frank DellaPenna, who has performed on the “Today” show and “America’s Got Talent,” will perform waltzes, English folk dances and original compositions. He performed at the Mass for Pope John Paul II in New York’s Central Park in 1995.
- July 29: Julie Zhu, the carillonneur at St. Thomas Church in New York, will perform classical works, original compositions and a few pop songs, including “Sandcastles,” by Beyonce.
Seating for the Smith Carillon Concert Series is on the lawn of Smith Chapel. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets or chairs. The sound carries, however, so visitors may utilize other areas of the Behrend campus, away from the 80-foot bell tower.
The Smith Carillon — one of just 166 in the United States — was installed in 2002. The smallest of the 48 bells weighs 15 pounds. The largest weighs 1,344 pounds.
No springs, levers or electronics are used in a carillon. The carillonneur strikes the bells by hitting a keyboard-like clavier with a loose fist. The larger bells are struck with a foot pedal.
The carillonneur performs in a small room at the top of the bell tower. A live video feed from that room to a screen on the chapel’s patio adds to the Behrend concert experience.
To learn more about the Smith Carillon and the summer concert series, go to the carillon page and concert schedule.