Yesterday afternoon, the Storke Tower carillon rang out in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the tower’s erection.
40 years and one day ago, Storke Tower became home to the world’s largest type of musical instrument – a bell carillon. The anniversary event drew over 200 people to Storke Plaza to hear Margo Halsted, who teaches a carillon course at UCSB through the music department, perform the same recital that was played at the campanile’s original dedication ceremony.
According to Emma L. Diemer, a former UCSB music professor, there are only 165 carillons in the country and 600 in the world. In order to play the instrument, musicians must bang keys – which are connected to clappers that are in turn attached to 61 bells – using their fists and feet.
Diemer said the anniversary event was noteworthy not only because Storke Tower is an historic structure, but also because there are only a handful of carillons in the entire state.
“Storke Tower is a landmark in the county,” Diemer said. “I suppose it’s the tallest [structure] in the county. There are only five carillons in the state, and we have one of them.”
Lawn chairs lined the north and south sides of the tower as the audience – which including a few people who were present at the original dedication service 40 years ago – listened to the unique sounds of the carillon. The concert-goers also watched a live feed of the performance on a flat screen television that was provided by the music department.
In addition to the original six pieces that were played four decades ago, Halsted also played two supplementary scores including “Fantasy for Carillon,” an award-winning score composed by Diemer.
Halsted, who has been playing the carillion for 45 years, said Diemer’s composition is the most complicated piece she has every played. In fact, she said the challenging, celebratory arrangement required her to stretch her body to the opposite side of the 6.5 feet-wide organ and use her entire arm to play the music.
“It’s exhilarating [to play the carillon],” Halsted said. “I feel so excited playing it. Even though you don’t see any people, you know there are hundreds of people listening.”
One of those listeners, Don Rowley, said he appreciates the intricate music.
“The harmonics of the bells are much more complex than any other instrument,” Rowley said. “They blend well, which is unique. You can’t hear this any other way… We’re very privileged to live here and hear this music.”
Terry Wright, who worked as a construction laborer on the installment of the carillon into Storke Tower 40 years ago, said he was stunned when he first caught sight of the bells – which range from 13 to 5,000 pounds – that had to be hoisted into the heights of the tower. He said it was a once in a lifetime experience.
“It’s the most fun I ever had on the job,” Wright said.
Halsted plays the bells every Monday morning and performs quarterly recitals at UCSB. She also teaches her carillon course, Music 24, every Fall Quarter.