On Saturday, Dec. 2, members of the Guild of Carillonneurs brightened an otherwise dreary day with a two hour open tower holiday concert, during which classic holiday tunes ranging from “Last Christmas” to “All I Want For Christmas Is You” to “Silent Night” reverberated throughout campus.
The second of the two fall recurring carillon concerts, Saturday’s was a highly anticipated one, both for audience members and carillonneurs themselves. Guild members performed holiday music for the first time this season.
“We’re not allowed to play holiday music on the actual bells until after Thanksgiving, so it’s really been only this week that we’ve played those songs on the big bells,” Guild President Sydney Nguyen ’24 said.
The carillonneurs further got into the spirit by decorating the tower with lights, garlands and Christmas hats. Anna Kraffmiller ’24 commented on the general excitement.
“Everyone got to pick whatever holiday songs that they wanted to play, and last night we decorated the tower, which was fun,” she added.
The concert ran smoothly, and audience members both in the tower and around campus enjoyed a spirited slew of well-loved songs.
“We had a fantastic and festive concert. There were a number of visitors in the bell tower, including a professor and her family. Everyone enjoyed our pieces, and Guild members even added in some pieces at the end. During Open Towers, at the end of the concert, we will often play additional pieces as duets on a whim” Alex Cahn ’24 said.
While attendance was substantial at around 30 attendees — considering the uniquely limited space the bell tower offers — members of the guild continue to see boosting attendance numbers as an important priority.
“We are working on getting our attendance up, because it’s such a cool thing and I feel like people are really missing out if they don’t go,” Emily Gil ’24 said.
The Guild has been very active this semester, as they always are, whether you stop to enjoy the daily accompaniments to your walk to class or not. Over the span of fall semester, they have played for campus events including Orientation, Flower Sunday, the Tanner Conference and Vespers, as well as holding the annual Open Towers during Friends & Family Weekend and Halloween.
Across the group, members highlighted the strong sense of camaraderie they share with each other and the benefits of a robust community for their music.
“All the members support each other, both in the tower and on the ground. When I was a student player the students didn’t even know who else was a member; it was a solitary endeavor and I’m delighted to see that no longer be the case,” Margaret Angelini, the carillon instructor, explained.
Nguyen expressed a similar sentiment, saying, “I think the community of the Guild has been really great. Through weekly carillons, I feel like we’ve really gotten to bond, especially with the different road trips and events we attend together.”
For Gil, joining the guild has helped boost confidence.
“It’s been a really fun community and it’s also helped me get rid of a lot of my stage fright around performing,” Gil said.
Additionally, Angelini elaborated on the support members provide for one another.
“Sometimes a player will not be as comfortable with a piece as they would like, but the group spirit of the guild is such that the players help each other out so that it goes smoothly. They help solve the rough spots so that listeners can’t tell that anything was ever wrong,” Angelini said.
Looking forward, the Guild will be hosting the annual Cari-Radio concert in February, where they’ll play popular music, as well as the Change Ringing open tower towards the end of the spring semester, where “people who are not Guild members can actually come and play the bells, which is always a lot of fun,” Kraffmiller said. A fundraising program “where people can request songs for us to arrange and then pay us to play them” according to Nguyen, is also in the works.
The Guild of Carillonneurs is passionate about what they do, not only the music they play but also in their unique ability to bring the campus together.
“It’s just really special that this is such a rare instrument that we get to hear every single day and that I get to learn how to play. I love that I can figure out a way to put any song I like on the bells,” Kraffmiller said.
Cahn agreed, saying “I love how embedded the carillon is in the Wellesley community. I enjoy arranging and playing songs for people to hear across campus — and even across the lake!”
“One of the things that I love about the bells is that they belong to every member of the Wellesley College community. Our carillon gives us a sense of place, and when we hear the bells we belong here. Not everyone can play the carillon, but everyone can hear it,” Angelini concluded.