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, however, the notes tumble into something different: When Wade Fitzgerald is playing, for example, you’re likely to hear “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” by Queen.
“A concert carillon is a unique instrument,” said Chris Fox, assistant director of civic engagement and programming 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 7 with a performance by Elisa Tersigni, a digital humanities postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.
Three more performances will follow:
- July 14: Fitzgerald, a Florida-born performer who served as the Blanchard Carillon Fellow at Bok Tower Gardens, a 250-acre garden and bird sanctuary.
- July 21: Anna Kasprzycka, a graduate of the Academy of Music in Gdansk and the Royal Carillon School in Belgium.
- July 28: Andrea McCrady, the Dominion Carillonneur at the Peace Tower, at the House of Commons in Ottawa.
All performances in the Smith Carillon Concert Series begin at 7 p.m. The concerts are free and open to the public.
Seating for the concerts 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 Smith Carillon Concert Series webpage.