Cook Carillon tour offers students look inside landmark

By Nicolle Martin | 4/21/10 11:12pm

GVL/Andrew Mills Julianne Vanden Wyngaard, the university carillonneur, demonstrates the carillon inside of the Cook Tower on the Grand Valley State University Allendale campus.

For 16 years, the Cook Carillon has rung students to class each day with the same reliable tune every 15 minutes and the occasional hearty melody in the evening.

This weekend, music professor and campus carillonneur for 10 years, Julianne Vanden Wyngaard, will allow students and the public to tour Cook Carillon Tower and see all its inner workings.

While it is no Notre Dame and there is no Quasimodo, the Cook Carillon Tower is a recognizable fixture of the Grand Valley State University Allendale Campus and a symbol of university pride.

“A tower stands on each campus and I imagine that students wonder what it is really all about,” Vanden Wyngaard said. “One doesn’t usually have access to the towers and when the opportunity is presented, one should participate.”

Vanden Wyngaard chaired the GVSU music department from 1984 to 1996 and has been the principle carillonneur since the tower’s dedication in 1994. In 1999 Vanden Wyngaard completed the requirements and gained member status to the Guild of Carillonneurs of North America.

“I began my study with Margo Halsted at the University of Michigan and went on to complete my studies at the Netherlands Carillon School and currently hold a diploma from that school,” Vanden Wygaard said. “One usually doesn’t study or have a big interest in the carillon until there is an instrument near. We got the Cook Carillon Tower in 1994 and the Beckering carillon in 2000. Now that I have two of them to play, my interest is very keen.”

The Beckering tower is located on the Pew Campus and the Cook Tower is on the Allendale Campus.

When Vanden Wyngaard was a full-time professor in the music department, she taught music theory, a music intro course and private lessons on the carillon.

For the past several years, Karen Meyers, director of the Regional Math and Science Center, has studied carillon with Vanden Wyngaard.

“The carillons are wonderful assets to the campus community,” Meyers said. “It complements the campus structurally as a landmark and culturally as a tradition, yet is a very unique instrument with a rich history and beautiful sound.”

Both Vanden Wyngaard and Meyers believe the open tower gives students a behind-the-scenes opportunity to view the instrument, understand how it works and appreciate the artistry required to play it.

Though Vanden Wyngaard is not a composer, most carillonneurs often make arrangements of pieces they want to play.

The hour strikes and the Alma Mater song is programmed into the computer and played. Otherwise, if you hear music from the tower, there is a person up there playing.

However, carillonneurs will only take requests for special occasions.

“Hopefully this open tower will pique their interest and they will return on subsequent Sunday evenings to enjoy local and guest artists from around the world,” Meyers said.

The tour is June 27 at 7 p.m. There will also be a series of carillon concerts.

The Allendale series begins on June 20 and will continue every Sunday at 8 p.m. through August 22. The series on the Beckering carillon is only during the month of July on every Wednesday at noon.

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