Construction will leave the iconic Kniker Carillon in the Tower silent this holiday season, a bittersweet experience for members of the Guild of Student Carillonneurs.
Formed in April 2010, the group currently consists of nine University of Texas students who aim to keep the art of the carillon alive, according to the guild’s student advisor, Austin Ferguson. The guild typically performs as a group every Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Tower while Ferguson, a sophomore music theory major, reserves Tuesdays from 1 to 2 p.m. for his own performances. Each semester they perform at least one big concert — holiday songs in the fall and a pre-finals concert in the spring — but Ferguson hopes to increase the frequency of these performances to two or three each semester.
Sadly, UT students will have to wait until spring to enjoy the Tower’s chimes again. According to Ferguson, the university is financing a project to update the aging carillon. The first of the 56 bells were installed in 1936.
Ferguson has a hopeful outlook for the construction.
“I’m really excited," he said. "Once the rebuild on [the carillon] is done and we’ve got everything re-situated, it’s going to play like an entirely new instrument."
Although holiday music is among Ferguson’s favorite to play, the construction halts the guild’s performances until the projected construction completion date, Jan. 31 of next year. To make up for lost time, Ferguson hopes to play a “Christmas in March” concert; the only difficulty is how long the guild will have to prepare.
“It’s not too long after Christmas, but I want us to be able to practice before we go up and play,” Ferguson said.
Because almost none of the members have played a carillon prior to joining the organization, the guild uses a teacher-student model to learn songs. Veteran members give lessons once a week to the new carillonneurs and assist in song selection and arrangement.
Each person has a different process for arranging songs for the carillon, whether it’s finding the music on the Internet or simply playing by ear. The guild is able to play almost any song on the bells that does not rely primarily on lyrics, which unfortunately means we won’t get to hop across campus while “Gangnam Style” chimes from the Tower.
If you have a specific song you’d like to hear, you can email requests to the guild or take the plunge and learn to play yourself. To join, you must be able to read music and have at least two years left at the university. Students who are interested in joining can email the guild to set up an audition for the spring semester.
“When I saw the flyer for the student guild here, I was like ‘I’ve got to go out! I have to,’” said senior oboe studies and voice major Matt Przekota. “You get to say that you play a building. It’s like, ‘What’s the carillon?’ ‘Oh, you know the Tower? I play that.’”
Owing to the construction — and the subsequent absence of the bell chimes this winter — the carillon will come back in the spring sounding brand new, and the Guild of Student Carillonneurs will be ready to get back in action.
For more information visit the Guild of Student Carillonneurs’ website at or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org