Friday, December 20, 2013

RINGING IN THE SEASON WITH REVERENCE




If anyone asks me what my favorite carol is my answer is quick--Carol of the Bells. It's been my favorite since I was a very young and according to my parents I loved it as a young toddler. I don't remember so I must take their word for it. 

My first memory of it was when I was just four and we lived in Washington D.C. I had a new baby brother that year. He was born October 25th. I was out in our small back yard. Big fat snowflakes were falling all around me and I was spinning around and trying to *fly* up to catch them and I *fell* right out of the sky when I heard it. It wasn't our neighbors on either side of us. It was coming up from the alley. My fenced in yard was 25 steps(my mother counted them the last time I escaped) above the alley. But someone was playing it loud on the radio, I think it was a radio but, it could have been a record player because another Christmas song followed it. What drew me was the sound of the bells. It was so pretty and different from what I had heard before. I really wanted to go down the steps and find where the song was coming from but that path had already gotten my little Houdini self in serious and painful trouble. I sat two steps down and listened (hey, I was still in the yard). I remember wanting it to play again like it did on Dad's record player.



I have two carols to share with you today. Both are unusual in different ways. One is played with carillon. The other isn't unusual in the instruments but the setting and reverence brought to the piece sets it apart.

This particular version of The Carol Of The Bells is played with bells. It's a manual carillon. The carillon in French, or glockenspiel in German, is a percussion instrument made up of tuned bronze cast cup shaped bells arranged in chromatic sequence and tuned in concordant harmony and played from a baton keyboard. It's a huge instrument and this one weighs in about 4 tons. I chose this particular video because it shows how it's played--both hand and foot movements. I'm not sure I would want to listen to many other songs on the carillon but for the Carol Of The Bells it's pretty cool.




I'm sure many of you have heard O Come, Emmanuel. This version is played by the Piano Guys on the piano and cello. For me, the cello is a haunting instrument. It touches something deep inside. I love the sense of reverence brought to this piece and watching Steve play...seeing the emotion well up from his heart as he plays is beautiful. The location they chose to play and the acoustics for this video is fabulous. 



You'll notice in the upper right of the video is a link to a special Christmas video which blends scenes from this video with an enactment of the story. It's pretty and well done.


 


12 comments:

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Wow I LOVE that version of "O Come, Emmanuel" How beautiful!!

Jo said...

Fascinated with the carillon, but I wonder why the mask? As for the second piece, hauntingly beautiful.

Merry Christmas Sia.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Carol of the Bells is very unique. I don't think I've ever seen that instrument before.

Kat Sheridan said...

Both videos are simply beautiful. I loved hearing Carol of the Bells played on actual bells. I remember singing that in the high school choir. Unfortunately, as an alto, I got stuck with the "ding dong ding dong" part and never the pretty high part, but it's really special to be standing in the middle of a group and hear all the sounds come together in something glorious and to be a part of that.

~Sia McKye~ said...

KEITH, it really is beautiful, isn't it? I like the thought these two men bring to their songs and like the different settings they choose to highlight their music.

JO--the mask is an affectation as is his body movements. He also wears protective gear for his ears. When you hear these bells played, and I have only once, they're incredibly loud. Of course, that makes perfect sense when you realize bells were designed to be heard from miles away.The guy has been playing the carillon for over 20 years.

ALEX--the carillon lends itself to this piece. It has to have between 23 and 27 bells (anything less is considered chimes--loud chimes--but chimes) to be considered a carillon and it usually has a two octave range. There are symphony carillons with a 4 octave range and over 40 bells.

I've only seen one played once at a renaissance fair.

~Sia McKye~ said...

KAT--When I was in school I sang second soprano but when I was part a community chorale the latter part of the 90 and early 2000's I was in the alto section. I much prefer the soprano section, lol! Yah, being a part of the whole and making beautiful music is a treat!

Jo said...

Forgot to mention we have a glockenspiel in town. Kitchener, where I live, is predominantly German (or was, used to be called New Berlin) and Kitchener holds the second biggest Oktoberfest in the world, part of which is the playing of the glockenspiel although I don't think anyone actually plays it, I believe it is electronic.

Julie Flanders said...

Oh, I love the Carol of the Bells as well. So beautiful!

Merry Christmas, Sia!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Beautiful location for the second video.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was my first favorite song. I still have the record that I used to play over and over. I was upset when I started school and the other kids sang the song differently, adding words. ("Like a lightbulb," etc.) That was NOT how the song went!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia .. I love that Carillon - what an amazing instrument .. and you've seen it being played in real life. Thanks for clarifying mask aspect ... I can imagine the bell would make a beautiful very loud sound ...

The O Come Emmanuel is just gorgeous to hear, while set in that amazing setting .. incredible acoustics too ...

Happy Christmas and festive season with family .. cheers Hilary

Dani Harper said...

Two of my very favorite carols -- and ones I don't hear very often. Beautifully rendered! Thank you, Sia, for that lovely gift. :)

Mason Canyon said...

Carol of the Bells is one of my favorites too. Love this video of it. Have you ever seen the version from Claymation Christmas? It's so cute. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.