Pat Neff bells still ring for Sept. 11

Photos by Nick Barryman and Connor Yearsley Lynnette Geary stands beside the McLane Carillon located on the top floor of Pat Neff Hall. She has performed a recital every year on 9/11 since the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.
Photos by Nick Barryman and Connor Yearsley
Lynnette Geary stands beside the McLane Carillon located on the top floor of Pat Neff Hall. She has performed a recital every year on 9/11 since the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

By Connor Yearsley

Every year on the anniversary of Sept. 11, Americans do what they can to commemorate a tragedy.

Lynnette Geary, resident carillonneur (pronounced CARE-uh-lahn-oo-er), will perform a memorial carillon recital at 5 p.m. today from the tower of Pat Neff Hall.

Geary said she’s been performing this recital every year, beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, just hours after the attacks.

“The day it happened was such an awful day. I came over here and played some piano music, and I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I didn’t know what else to do. I’ve done it ever since,” she said.

Geary has been here since before Baylor first acquired the McLane Carillon in 1988, and she was already an experienced player at the time. She and her students have exclusive access to the carillon, a keyboard instrument with keys, called levers, attached to correspondingly-tuned bells. For instance, pushing the low C lever will ring the low C bell. Both the keyboard and the bells together make up the carillon.

A room at the top of the tower on the fourth floor of Pat Neff Hall houses the McLane Carillon, named after Drayton McLane, the instrument’s donor and a 1958 Baylor graduate, and his family.

This carillon has a range of four octaves and, like a piano, is arranged chromatically (think of the twelve black and white keys that make up an octave on a piano).

The bottom two octaves can also be played with foot pedals. Unlike a piano, the carillon uses levers, which are connected by cables to the clappers of the bells in the belfry, a ladder’s climb above.

When the dowel-like levers are pushed down, the cables draw the clappers to strike the bells, which remain stationary. Only the clappers inside the bells move, although the low C, D and E bells can be made to swing for celebratory occasions.

Geary said she remembers how exciting it was when Baylor was first given the carillon by the McLane family in 1988. The bells were hoisted individually by crane into the belfry.

The crowded belfry contains 48 pitched, cast-bronze bells. The largest bell is a low C and weighs 4,370 pounds. The smallest is a high C and weighs just 29 pounds. Combined, the bells weigh more than 22 tons.

The lower 28 bells all have unique inscriptions on them, some with Bible verses, some with dedications and some with quotes, all significant in some way to Baylor’s history. The inscriptions are duplicated on a bell-shaped plaque in the entryway to Pat Neff Hall.

The 20 higher bells don’t have inscriptions, so their tuning wouldn’t be affected by the inscriptions. A bell’s tuning is determined by its size, shape and metal composition.

The carillon is also capable of being programmed. The hourly chimes, called the Westminster chimes, are set to sound automatically. Geary can also program melodies to play at designated times.

She said there are certain things people should understand about the instrument. It’s typical for the bells to still be ringing at least a couple measures after they’ve been struck. The overtones produce some dissonance. She said carillonneurs should know how to avoid parts becoming too muddied.

She also said holding the keys down should be avoided because that stops the clapper against the bell and hinders it from


resonating fully.

Geary said she’d like for people to be informed about the instrument she plays.

“I’d like for people to know what it is and that it’s a serious concert instrument. A lot of people walk by and say, ‘Oh, the bells are playing,’ and keep walking,” she said.

Geary said the carillon has its own repertoire, not just music arranged for it. She likes to include some original music and some arrangements of more recognizable music in each of her recitals.

She said it’s tradition at Baylor for every recital to begin with the “Doxology” and end with the Alma Mater, but ending with “That Good Old Baylor Line” isn’t appropriate for this occasion.

She said her favorite piece from the coming recital might be “Saint Anne” by Croft, though others are touched by different pieces.

“It’s basically just a really nice piece,” she said. “A lot of people are touched by ‘Amazing Grace.’”

Geary will be performing a different treatment of the hymn by composer Loyd Lott, which ends with a series of rapid runs on top of the melody.

“It ends on a hopeful note,” Geary said.

She said she also likes “In Paradisum,” arranged by Roy Johnson. “I like the way it ends the program. You’re left with the peace of it,” she said.

Other works to be performed are “Andante” by Fiocco, “St. Columba” arranged by Myhre, “Abide with Me” by Monk and “In Memorium—September 11, 2011” by Courter.

Geary said she hopes the recital will mean something to people.

“I want to keep a contemplative mood about it,” she said. “We need to remember the people who were lost.”

Geary said the recital is also a way to show respect to the armed forces and to the people who sacrificed trying to help others that day.

“It’s a way to show our appreciation and that we haven’t forgotten. If they can hear at least part of it maybe, it would give them some thought,” she said.

Geary said Fountain Mall is a good place to listen to the recital.

The event is open to the public.