Lectures, Concerts and Meet the Mayor

Hendrick Claes (Brussels 17c)
Today was a more scholarly day. Several lectures explored how tune books written for the automatic playing mechanism I mentioned yesterday could inform carillon performance. There are few manuscripts of carillon music from the 17th 18th and 19th centuries. We have a general idea of the music that was played, but look for clues as to how it was played. These lectures looked a the notebooks the carillonneurs did leave behind that they used to program the automatic drums. Others have looked to mechanical organs and music boxes from the past as a source for performance information for other instruments. These "veersteek" books (repinning) show what music was heard during the chiming of the quarter hours. Many times it was hymns and folk music, but we also find versions of popular chanson early on, and later harpsichord music. The lectures compared originals with the versions for the automatic play and the versions for the carillonneur to play. The speaker was able to tease out some clues and suggest ways performers might adapt other music from the period.

As a break from the carillon music, we heard a concert of 18th century music played on baroque flute, viola da gamba and theorbo. The Quirinus Baroque Ensemble presented a special program of works of music inspired by bells including, of course, the "Sonnerie de Sinte Genevieve du Mont de Paris" an extended work over the repeating three notes of the tower bells of Saint Genevieve in Paris by Marin Marais.

Before lunch a member of the German guild, Gunther Strothmann,  performed a carillon concert of music from the German school. After lunch a carillonneur from Mons, Pascaline Flamme performed a concert of Baroque Music and compositions by Geo Clement.
Modern video/audio feed, 18th c. harpsichord
To expand on the lectures, a unique concert combined harpsichord and the carillon, but not at the same time. We heard four pieces of Flemish harpshichord music from the 18th century performed by Korneel Bernolet on a Dulken harpsichord built in 1747 in Antwwerp. Following, we heard the transcriptions of the same four pieces that are in the carillon book of Johannes de Gruytters. He made the arrangements for performance on the Antwerp carillon at about the same time as the harpsichord was built. The same mean tone tuned bells he played are in the tower today. What a unique experience!

Lively reception at the 16th c. city hall.

We were all invited to City Hall to be formally welcomed by the mayor. The Vice Mayor for Culture, Philip Heylen had wonderful things to say about how central the cathedral carillon is to the life of the city and honored they were to have an international group of carillonneurs meeting in the city. The beer and wine were a great prelude to supper in the cathedral garden.

The evening was very different. There is a carillon in St. Petersburg, Russia and the Russian guild sent several carillonneurs to the congress. We heard an unusual, yet spell binding work composed and performed by Olesya Rostovskaya. "Soul of a Bell." It was a piece for carillon with electronics. A montage of Russian folk tunes and bell sounds along with electronics and recorded voices kept the carillonneur audience in silence for the half hour. Another first!

And if that wasn't unusual enough, the same amplification system was used for a concert of Jazz Standards on carillon, voice and guitar. The group played and sang old standards as Misty, Cry Me a River and Fly me to the moon. We heard both of these concerts from the cathedral garden, but the music carried for distance around the tower.

The cathedral garden was a quieter spot for a concert tonight. Last night we had competition from band and crowd noises at a rally nearby. The public transit workers were staging a one day work stoppage today. There were no local buses or trains.

Tomorrow is an all day bus trip for us to Lier. We expect some excitement when we return to town as Belgium plays USA in World Cup competition.