As I’ve surely said countless times before, one of the things I love so much about Utrecht is that it’s a perfect blend of historic and modern. Buildings that are hundreds of years old are still used as homes, businesses, and more, rather than being turned solely into museum pieces. Even the Domtoren manages to keep up with the times through its music choices. Although many pieces played every 15 minutes are classical, you’re just as likely to hear more modern songs, from Toto to Lady Gaga.
The various bells throughout town become background noise on a daily basis, but every once in a while, especially during some of the midday Domtoren concerts, a certain song will jump out at you. As I was working today, I found myself humming Lou Reed’s song Perfect Day. At first I didn’t think much of it, since that and other songs of his have been in my head this week after the sad news of his passing. But then I realized that the song was in my head because I was hearing it played on the Domtoren carillon.
Sadly, today isn’t as perfect a day as last Thursday when I managed to salvage these photos from my camera. That was a glorious day, crisp and bright, without a cloud in the deep blue sky. Unfortunately, today is cold, grey, damp, and miserable, but hearing Perfect Day played on the Domtoren carillon brought a bit of sunshine into my day.
Last night was the last of the Domtoren carillon summer concerts. To close out the series, carillonneur Malgosia Fiebig, along with pianists Sandra Mol, Jeroen van Veen, and Marcel and Elisabeth Bergmann, performed Mike Oldfield’s classic Tubular Bells. Even if you’re not familiar with Mike Oldfield, you’re probably familiar with the part of Tubular Bells that was used in the horror film classic The Exorcist.
The concert, since it’s performed in the Domtoren, is easy to hear throughout much of the city center. Knowing we can hear the Domtoren during its hourly musical interludes, G and I decided to listen to the concert from our back terrace. Unfortunately, we forgot to account for all of the neighbours around us, who were all eating dinner, watering plants, having phone conversations, and generally making the most of the nice weather. Still, we could hear all but the quietest bits and it really was wonderful to hear it played on such an instrument.
I didn’t realize at the time, but they had seating set up at the Buurkerkhof so that people who enjoy the concert. In addition, they projected on a wall in the square a video image of the musicians performing.
Per the short YouTube video of the concert that I found comes the following trivia:
The pianos were amplified using speakers pointing in four directions at a height of 40 meters (the sound you hear comes from the tower and was heard throughout the city!). The performers were playing in a small room at a height of 70 meters.
I didn’t get any video, but fortunately, others did. Here’s a link to a short section of the concert, and below is another short version of various sections of the concert. Enjoy!
Today’s midday musical interlude was an homage to The Rolling Stones, as played on the carillon of the Domtoren. I was walking through town to meet up with a friend and got to enjoy some of the music. I heard Start Me Up and Ruby Tuesday, but they also played Wild Horses, Satisfation, and Angie. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaangie!” Sorry, I can’t even see that song mentioned without singing along dramatically. I suspect it might have had something to do with one of my friends at university having the name Angie. “Aaaaaaaaaangie!”
If you’re not sure what a carillon is, here’s the Wikipedia description, which is probably a more succinct explanation than I could provide:
A carillon (/ˈkærɨlɒn/, /ˈkærɨljɒn/, or /kəˈrɪljən/; French: [kaʁijɔ̃]) is a musical instrument that is typically housed in a bell tower, or the belfry of a church or other municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to play a melody, or sounded together to play a chord. A carillon is played by striking a keyboard – the keys of which are sometimes called batons – with the fists, and by pressing the keys of a pedal keyboard with the feet. The keys mechanically activate levers and wires that connect to metal clappers that strike the inside of the bells, allowing the performer on the bells, or carillonneur,  to vary the intensity of the note according to the force applied to the key.
Thanks to Twitter, I discovered a bit about Malgosia Fiebig, who is now serving as the city carilloneur for Utrecht and Nijmegen, having taken over the position from Arie Abbenes, who retired last year. She’ll be the one performing Tubular Bells at the end of the summer.
Still, there’s nothing like walking down the street, cursing the rain, when you suddenly realize that you’re hearing “Start Me Up” being played on bells ringing out over the city from the bell tower built in the 1300s. That’s one of those random things that I just love about living here. Rock on, Domtoren!
I just realized I never posted my Queen’s Day photos. Oh well. This was probably one of the best/prettiest shots I took that day, anyway. It’s the Domtoren with the national flag and the House of Orange flags flying atop it. The photo was taken from the far end of the Plompetorengracht, for those of you who know the area.