Summer’s biggest concerts don’t require multiple stages or three-day passes, only the world’s largest musical instrument—the carillon.
The 48 bells of the Floyd and Juanita Smith Carillon at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, sit atop an 80-foot brick tower adjacent to the Larry and Kathryn Smith Chapel. Weighing between 15 and 1,344 pounds each, the bells produce a massive sound that rolls weightlessly over the college and its surrounding hillside.
To introduce the community to the remarkable majesty of the instrument, Penn State Behrend will host four carillon performances this summer. All begin at 7 p.m. and are free and open to the public. Free hot dogs and snacks will be served.
This summer’s Smith Carillon Concert Series performers will be:
Thursday, July 12
Carillonneur for the Bournville Village Trust in Birmingham, England
Thursday, July 19
Carillonneur for the First United Methodist Church and the Miraculous Medal Shrine, both in Germantown, Pa.
Thursday, July 26
Auke de Boer and Adolph Rots
City Carillonneurs for Groningen, The Netherlands
Thursday, August 2
Director of the Royal Carillon School Jef Denyn in Mechelen, Belgium
Seating for the Smith Carillon Concert Series is on the lawn of Smith Chapel; concertgoers are encouraged to bring their own chair or blanket. In the event of rain, seating will be available inside the chapel. In addition to the free snacks that will be offered, the coffee shop on the second floor of the Reed Union Building will be open between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. these evenings to sell Berkey Creamery ice cream by the cone or cup
Carillon audiences cannot directly observe the carillonneur; he or she sits in a small room in the base of the tower and strikes a keyboard-like clavier with a loose fist to bring a clapper to each bell. Smith Carillon Concert Series performers can be seen via a live feed broadcast to a television located in either the lower-level room of the Smith Chapel or, weather permitting, on the chapel patio.
The Smith Carillon bells were cast by Meeks, Watson & Co., a bell founder located in Georgetown, Ohio, and are made from “bell metal,” a bronze consisting of 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin. This alloy has been used for carillon bells since the 1600s. Penn State Behrend’s instrument is considered a “concert carillon” because it covers four octaves, permitting performance of almost the entire canon of published carillon music.
The Smith Carillon Concert Series is made possible by a gift from Larry and Kathryn Smith. For additional information about the series, phone 814-898-6609.