Oct 20, 2008
UCSB’s Carillon Tunes
The 61 bells atop Storke Tower will play a different tune this Sunday during a live concert showcasing songs by the Beatles, Duke Ellington and Hoagy Carmichael.
Beginning at 3 p.m., Margo Halsted — a visiting associate for the Music Dept. — will perform an arrangement of songs on the carillon in the first of three quarterly recitals on the instrument. A TV screen will broadcast Halsted’s performance from inside the tower to viewers in Storke Plaza, allowing the audience to see the intricate movements of her hands and her feet while playing the carillon.
“The video feed from the playing room at the top of the tower will enable the listeners to view the performer and to understand how a carillon is played,” Halsted said.
Controlled by the carillonist’s hands and feet, the instrument is operated by a keyboard-like controller that strikes a particular bell in the tower.
Halsted said the upcoming performance is an opportune time to showcase the university’s largest instrument through contemporary music.
“I consider this first recital in many years to be a milestone for the UCSB carillon,” Halsted said. “I plan to play one carillon recital each quarter [and] I encourage interested listeners from all over Santa Barbara area to attend.”
UCSB’s carillon is one of five located in California. Thomas Storke — former editor and publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press — donated the tower and carillon to the university in 1969.
A traditional carillon consists of at least 23 bells, and the carillon located at the top of Storke Tower has five octaves with 61 bells.
Developed in the low countries of Europe nearly 400 years ago, bell towers were used to tell time. The carillon was created when these bells were hooked up to a keyboard, allowing short melodies to play before the clock struck a certain number of times each hour.
Patti Hopper, publicist for the Music Dept., said previous carillon courses had to be canceled due to financial issues.
“Due to budget cuts, the program was inactive for several years,” Hopper said. “The music department stopped hiring after the budget cuts, but now professor Margo Halsted plans to present a carillon recital each quarter.”
Nearly 30 years ago, two UCSB students received degrees in music with the carillon as their performing instrument. In an attempt to revive the tradition, Halsted currently teaches a private carillon class to three students on Sundays and Mondays.