Carillon recital kicks off Holy Week and ending of Lent

The bells of the McLane Carillon that hangs in Pat Neff Hall are adorned with lyrics from "That Good Old Baylor Line." They rang Sunday in contemplation of the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11. (Nick Berryman | Lariat Photographer)
The bells of the McLane Carillon that hangs in Pat Neff Hall are adorned with lyrics from "That Good Old Baylor Line." (Nick Berryman | Lariat Photographer)
The bells of the McLane Carillon that hangs in Pat Neff Hall are adorned with lyrics from “That Good Old Baylor Line.”
(Nick Berryman | Lariat Photographer)

By Connor Yearsley

Today the bells in the belfry of Pat Neff Hall will ring to signal the approach of Holy Week.

Lynnette Geary, resident carillonneur (pronounced care-uh-lahn-oo-er), will give the carillon recital beginning at 5 p.m.

A carillon is a keyboard instrument with dowel-like keys connected by wire to the clappers of correspondingly-tuned bells. When the keys are pushed down, the clappers are drawn to strike the bells, which remain stationary. The keyboard and bells together make up the carillon.

The McLane Carillon in Pat Neff Hall, which was named after the family of the instrument’s donor, Drayton McLane, has a range of four octaves (48 notes) that begins with a low C and goes up to high C. The low C weighs 4,370 pounds and the high C weighs 29 pounds. Combined, all the bells weigh 22 tons. The bottom two octaves of the instrument can also be played with foot pedals.

Today’s recital will feature arrangements of traditional hymns associated with Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter.

“I love that music and I wanted an occasion to play it,” Geary said. She said she did this recital a few years ago and wanted to do it again.

The recital will begin with the playing of the “Doxology.”

Geary said it’s hard for her to single out a favorite piece from the program.

She said she likes the hymn “Ah, Holy Jesus,” which is set to the tune “Herzliebster Jesu” by Johann Crüger. “That tune is very pretty,” she said.

Geary said she thinks “A Somber Pavan” by Ronald Barnes might be the most technically challenging piece on the program.

“It’s very expressive,” she said. “It’s a slow piece, but you’ve got to have enough control so that all the lines are clear.”

She said one of the challenges of playing the carillon is preventing sounds from becoming jumbled or muddied. The melody can get overpowered since the bells ring for so long and since carillon music often has flurries of notes on top of or underneath the melody.

Geary said every piece on the program has its challenges. She said “Prelude on ‘The King’s Majesty’” by Milford Myhre is difficult because the melody is played using the foot pedals. The part requires playing two notes simultaneously (called double stops) for a prolonged period. She said that makes it pretty loud for a little while, but the piece has a quiet ending.

“Drop, Drop, Slow Tears” by Orlando Gibbons is another piece on the program in which the melody is played with the feet while the hands accompany in the higher ranges.

Geary said the piece “Windsor” presents the melody in a canon that fits together beautifully. A canon is a technique in which the melody is started and then, usually in another voicing, started again, so that the two or more melodic lines are staggered slightly.

“Windsor” also requires the use of some polyrhythms. For example, in the piece, triplets played on top of duplets is polyrhythmic.

Geary said the last two pieces on the program, “Ah, Holy Jesus” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” which is set to the tune “Rockingham” by Edward Miller, are more straight-forward than the rest of the program.

Geary said the “Rockingham” tune has a nice, upbeat character about it. “It’s a nice one,” she said.

Also on the program are “Babylon’s Streams” by Thomas Campian and “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days,” which is set to the tune “St. Flavian.”

Geary said she hopes people will come listen to the recital.

“It’s contemplative music,” she said. “There’s nothing bombastic about it.”

She also said she thinks it will be a good way for people to start the weekend before Holy Week.

Geary said Founders Mall, between Pat Neff Hall and Waco Hall, is a good place to listen to the recital. Programs will be placed in a basket on the steps of Pat Neff Hall for people to pick up. The recital is free and open to the public.