Saturday, January 29, 2011

Yale Carilloneurs Visit Plainfield

Fifteen members of the Yale Guild of Carilloneurs performed on the Pittis Carillon at Grace Episcopal Church Saturday as part of a "mini-tour" that will also include a visit to the Princeton University carillon. Here, Vera Wuensche begins with "On the San Antonio River."

She uses her closed hands to play the keyboard, which is attached to the bells above with a system of levers and wires.

The pedal keyboard is played with the feet.

Jessica Hsieh plays "The Dance of the Fireflies." See the video in the post below.

Clarence Cheng's selection was "Image No. 2."

This group arrived first for the visit. Others were delayed by car trouble. This view is from the steps to the bell tower.

Here are some of the massive bells. Read more about the Pittis Carillon here.

This is the narrow staircase to the tower.

Michael Solotke performs "Toccata for 42 Bells." As explained by the visitors, at Yale, the students perform twice a day and take requests, including popular songs. There are 24 Guild members in all. They do not have a teacher, but members commit to teach other students. Every spring break, they go on tour. Every other year, they go to Europe to play carillons.

When the group visits Princeton, they will meet with Robin Austin, who was once the carilloneur at Grace Church. Jeff Spelman is now the carilloneur. He greeted the students and noted their visit brought possibly the most carilloneurs ever to visit Grace Church at one time.

The imposing tower has gargoyles at its four corners. Click on any image for a larger view.

Al Pittis, whose family donated the carillon to the church, welcomes the visitors to cocoa and snacks after they perform.

Al Pittis gives the students a brief history of the carillon from its origins in the 1920s.

Only a couple of Plainfielders turned up Saturday for the tour and performances, but the visit was well-documented. Look for video on the Grace Church web site soon and even a YouTube post. The video below is a Plaintalker first.

Thanks to all the Yale students for a memorable occasion!



  1. It truly was a sight to see and a sound to be heard. How sad that with such a gift here in Plainfield, that less than a handful of people came out to enjoy it. A special thanks to Jeff Spellman and Al Pittis for making this possible. A huge thanks to Joey, Julie, Michael, Clarence, Jessica, Vera and all the others that came from Yale to play. It made for a unique and memorable birthday present. Thanks!

  2. One of these years I won't be working every Saturday! This sounds like it was beautiful.

  3. Bernice. . When you were on that second set of steps that lead to to the bells while taking that picture I hope you closed the trap door for Jeff.

    Usually he makes me do that. . . grrrrr

    We are blessed to have that Lad !



    & STS

  4. Would it be possible to have it at a better time of year? Would have loved to attend, but the cold and snow prevented me.

    You are right, though. Plainfield needs to take more pride in the many treasures we have.

  5. Great carillon. Perhaps more carillonneurs visited Grace in June of 1995 when the whole Guild of Carillonneurs in North America took a bus trip from the Congress, which was being hosted at Princeton University by Robin Austin. I'm guessing about 100-125 carillonneurs attended that congress (including myself), and most went on the bus trip.