In October 1975, to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of Brigham Young University, a magnificent tower with a carillon of 52 bells was given to the university by friends and alumni.
After its tones have drifted across campus in regular noon recitals for more than a quarter century, Don Cook, associate professor of organ in the BYU School of Music and BYU Carillonneur, has recorded the music of the carillon on a compact disc, "The Bells at BYU," produced by BYU-based Tantara Records.
In conjunction with the debut of the compact disc, KBYU-FM, Classical 89 will present "The Bells of BYU: Genuine Heavy Metal," with Cook. This entertaining and informative evening of music and conversation featuring "The Carillon and Its Music" is free to the public and will be presented Thursday (Jan. 16) at 7 p.m. in the BYU Museum of Art Auditorium.
Many of the pieces on the CD are popular favorites that have been arranged by Cook, including "The Spirit of God," the theme from "Beauty and the Beast" and favorite BYU songs such as the "Cougar Fight Song" and the "BYU School Song." Other pieces featured are "Stars and Stripes Forever," "The Bells of Hell," "Variations on a Slavonic Theme" and "Easter Dawning."
The carillon keyboard, consisting of broomstick-like manual keys and short pedal keys, is played with the side of the closed hands and with the feet. This mechanism allows for a high degree of musical expression, since the bells have a large range of volume and sustaining time.
The routine work of striking the hour and half hour is accomplished by an automatic mechanism. The opening phrase of the Mormon pioneer hymn "Come, Come, Ye Saints," followed by the actual hour strike marks the top of each hour. A two-bell "ding-dong" marks each half hour.
The instrument is played daily at noon for 30 minutes, before and after devotional assemblies at the nearby Marriott Center, and for occasional special recitals, but creating a studio-quality recording for this CD was not a small task.
"It was not a popular option with the neighbors for us to record just prior to waking hours, so two microphones were mounted on a crane and hoisted to within 50 feet of the bell chamber on Thanksgiving Day 2000," said Cook.
Cook joined the organ faculty of BYU in 1991 and serves as organ coordinator and university carillonneur. After earning bachelor and master of music degrees in organ at BYU, he received the doctor of musical arts degree in organ performance from the University of Kansas.
Cook's principal organ teachers were J.J. Keeler at BYU and James Moeser at Kansas. He appears frequently as a guest organist at the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
"The Bells at BYU" is available for purchase at the BYU Bookstore or can be ordered on-line ( http://www.byubookstore.com).
Writer: Elizabeth B. Jensen