Thursday, February 9, 2023

Carillonneur performs in recital at Beaumont Tower

October 16, 2000

After climbing 72 winding steps to Beaumont Tower’s carillon room, 8-year-old E.J. Omara slid onto a wooden bench nearly twice his size.

“I’m gonna play a scale,” he said, plunking the big wooden pegs down and ringing several of Beaumont Tower’s 49 bells, which can be heard throughout campus. “Wow, you have to press really hard.”

Omara takes piano lessons but got his chance at the carillon during a tour of the tower following the Faculty Artist Recital Sunday by MSU carillonneur Ray McLellan.

The 49-bell Beaumont Tower was built in 1928 and holds 2.5 tons worth of bells. The carillon resembles an organ, and musicians must work both hands and feet to ring its bells.

About 50 people attended the recital Sunday afternoon, spreading blankets and sitting in lawn chairs, parking their bikes on the patio or sitting on the metal benches surrounding the tower to listen to the bell music.

The program included a mix of familiar classical and ragtime tunes, the popular Christmas tune “Silver Bells,” and ended with MSU’s alma mater, “Shadows.”

“I played some rather difficult music today,” said McLellan, taking a break after his hour-long concert. “It’s definitely a bit of exercise. I work up a sweat.”

McLellan doesn’t generally take requests but said listeners never tire of the “Michigan State Fight Song” and often beckon him to play it. And though he did not play it Sunday, McLellan said he usually plays it at his Tuesday concerts.

English junior Aubrae Filipiak and music senior Benjamin Hall went to the concert together after hearing the music on campus.

Hall said he was interested to see who was playing inside the tower, and Filipiak said she was impressed by how well McLellan could play the instrument.

Visitors who signed the guest book at the tour left comments such as “Wow,” “Beautiful,” “Cool,” “Breathtaking” and “Very special” regarding the music.

Kay Schmid, an East Lansing resident who attended the recital with her husband, was equally impressed by the performance.

“It was gorgeous, we find it very soothing,” she said.

McLellan performs regularly on Tuesdays during the school year from noon to 12:30 p.m.


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