Mystery: By whom the bell tower tolls…


    By Nicole Schmidt

    The sounds of the bell tower are all too familiar to BYU students. Renditions of “Come, Come Ye Saints” and the mid-hour “Ding-dong” are a favorite part of BYU students” days.

    A question frequently asked is who is responsible for the melodious caroling? The answer: One faculty member, one graduate student and one undergrad.

    Don Cook, the faculty member in charge of the carillon (the bell-tower instrument), has been playing since he was a student in organ performance at BYU in 1979.

    Cook said he remembers watching as the bell tower was constructed when he was receiving language training in the now-MTC. He said he never thought the bell tower would have such a huge impact on his life when he saw it built or even when he began playing the carillon in 1979.

    “It was just a fun job,” Cook said.

    Since 1979 only 20 carillonneurs have worked in the bell tower. At the present time, two students have the same privilege of the “fun job” by playing twice a week at noon.

    Alisa Rogers, the undergraduate student heard on Mondays and Wednesdays, has been ringing the bells for two years.

    When first beginning her musical endeavors on the carillon, Rogers said it was hard for her to practice on the instrument.

    “I was afraid to even touch the bells because everyone could hear me,” Rogers said. “I wouldn”t tell anyone when I was playing because I was so paranoid about it.”

    Rogers said playing the carillon and practicing for everyone within earshot no longer fazes her. At times, she even gets requests from listeners after her performances.

    As for the climb of over 100 stairs to the top of the bell tower, it”s all leg power. The bell tower is not equipped with an elevator.

    “Sometimes I feel like the hunchback of BYU after climbing all those stairs,” Rogers said.

    Carillon students practice for their performances on a keyboard in a room at the base of the bell tower. They also get to practice live on the actual carillon at times. Cook said the carillonneurs need practice on the carillon because it is different than the practice equipment.

    If you have interest in becoming a carillonneur, Cook said certain requirements must be met. As the instructor, Cook asks that all potential students have an extensive musical training background.

    “This is not the instrument to be learning to read notes on,” Cook said.

    The class also requires a $300 fee and an hour a day of practice time.

    Other than that, Cook said organ, piano and percussion experience is helpful in learning to play.

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