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Cast in Bronze

Updated on August 20, 2014

Carillon at the Renaissance Festivals

Frank Della Penna and his associates perform on the carillon at various Renaissance Faires throughout the United States.



The Renaissance Festivals are an occasion when people, who like to dress up like the folks from the middle ages, wander around posing for pictures among buildings that look appropriate for the era. Quite often, these are people who participate in SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism, an organization that likes to present the middle ages as they should have been. They hold many different events, including wars. Other people aren't affiliated with SCA, but they like to participate.



This first picture gives you the setting. I took it at the Renaissance Festival west of Phoenix, Arizona, earlier in 2009.
 

(Photo credits Pat Goltz)

Music at the Renaissance Festival

There were many musicians at the Renaissance festival. In the Lens I will do on the Faire itself, I will talk more about this.

This group was performing medieval music. The woman on the left is playing the recorder, an ancestor of the flute. The recorder is made of wood. It was enjoyable because it brought back memories of the time I used to play recorder with a local recorder society once a month.

My Astonishing Discovery

The sweet sound of bells in the distance

I had been taking pictures for well over an hour when I heard bells in the distance. I love bells, and I was absolutely astounded to hear these, so I hastened to see what was going on, and this is what I saw:

The Carillon

This is a real carillon. It weighs four tons and has 48 bells. The performer is Frank Della Penna. He has quite a flair, not only for the music, but also for the visual performance. He was trained in France, among other places. He is also an innovator. For the first time, a carillon is being played along with other musical instruments and singing.

The carillon is often played with the fists, although not necessarily so. Frank plays almost exclusively with his fists. The keys are like rods, substantial in size. There is also a pedalboard.

The costume represents the anonymity of the carillonneur, who usually plays hidden away from the audience. He is wearing a golden mask shaped like a phoenix.

After his concert, he was willing to autograph his CDs, and I had bought every one that was on sale, and he graciously autographed all of them.

The Bell

Here is a photo of one of the larger bells.

The Set of Bells

This photo shows a collection of the bells, along with the mechanical linkages used to play them. At this size, it will be difficult to see. There are rods, which appear to be made of wood, linked to ropes that pull the clappers of the bells.

And Now for the Music

The web site of Cast in Bronze is located here: Cast in Bronze.

The Carol of The Bells

Notes from the first performance:

A carillon is a musical instrument composed of at least 23 carillon bells, arranged in chromatic sequence, so tuned as to produce concordant harmony when many bells are sounded together. It is played from a keyboard that allows expression through variation of touch. The keys are struck with the half-closed hand. In addition, the larger bells are connected to foot pedals. Although bells were first made by man during the Bronze Age, it was not until the 15th century that Flemish bell founders began to discover the process of accurately tuning bells. The 17th century was a golden age for the production of excellent carillons in the Low Countries of Europe. The art of making carillon bells almost died out by the 19th century. It is only in the 20th century that carillon bell founding was revived and has surpassed the quality and tuning of 17th century bells. Carillons are usually installed in a tower, either in a partially enclosed bell chamber which helps soften and blend the tones, or else hanging from an exposed bell frame. The keyboard is either in a room directly below the bells or placed in a cabin located in the bellchamber among the bells. A very few instruments have been mounted on trucks or trailers so that they can be moved from place to place. The world's greatest concentration of carillons is still in the Low Countries of Europe (Belgium, The Netherlands, northern France and northwest Germany). The art of the carillon has spread world wide, however, with instruments on every continent except Antarctica. More than 180 exist in North America, and they are listed in the Tower Directory. Elsewhere in the world, more than 450 exist, and they can also be found through the Tower Directory. An instrument which is like a carillon in terms of the number of bells, but which has only automatic action, is often loosely called a carillon. These can also be found through the Tower Directory, where they are identified as "non-traditional carillons". An instrument which is like a carillon but has less than 23 bells is called a chime. Several different types of playing mechanism are used in chimes, and the musical capabilities are distinctly less. Although chimes are found in as many parts of the world as carillons are, there was a uniquely American development of them in the 19th century. About 700 are known in North America, and more than 500 in the rest of the world; they can also be found through the Tower Directory.

This video is Frank Della Penna playing in Arizona.

The next video is Frank playing his own arrangement of Tubular Bells together with Phantom of the Opera. He is playing at the Scarborough Faire. The carillon plays Tubular Bells, and the Phantom of the Opera music comes from a recording of other instruments, heard more faintly in the background.

The final video is a collection of some of their favorite pieces including one composed by Frank, I presume. There is a short introduction, and then the performance. This carillon weighs 13 tons. The performer is Wylie Crawford.

Cast in Bronze-O Fortuna

This is Frank again in Arizona, playing O Fortuna from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. I enjoyed this particularly because I have performed this piece with the Masterworks Chorale. He was making so much noise that I got away with singing along! :) I apologize for the jerky movement at the beginning of the video.

Cast in Bronze Recordings on Amazon

I own most of these CDs, and they're exquisite! These would also make excellent Christmas gifts. These are my favorites.

Spirit of the Bells

Bells of Christmas

Voyage

Genesis

Best Day Ever

Arrival

Carol of the Bells

The Bells

The original CD.

Cast In Bronze

I think this one is only available used.

Cast in Bronze Guestbook

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    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 7 years ago

      [in reply to Tommy Ludwig] Thank you for the wonderful comment! I'm just another person who wishes she could play the carillon and had one to play! It's great that people like you are buying their music. That makes them available for people like me. I don't have a stationary carillon in my area, so this is the only opportunity to hear them. And you're welcome. It has been a pleasure to bring this to all of you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I was first introduced to this magnificent instrument last year(2008) at the Renaissance Festival in Charlotte, N.C. The music is beautiful. This past Sunday, we again attended the festival and attended the Carrillon performance. I purchased several of your tapes. I will attend the festival again before this year is over. I look forward to the performance put on by the musician playing the Carillon. I admire the persons who have put so much time into learning to play this instrument and I also thank you for the beautiful music.

    • Pat Goltz profile image
      Author

      Pat Goltz 8 years ago

      [in reply to Matthew Cavazos]

      Thank you. I see, then, that we share a passion for a very worthy group.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Ever since the 2001 Houston Rennaissance Faire I been in pure adoration of Cast in Bronze. I remember purchasing the Genesis and Christmas Discs while I was, one of those is always in my Cd changer's rotation at any point in time of the year!