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Review of the Master of the Bells, Frank DellaPenna

Written by Rebecca Donovan-Tifft


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Imagine yourself decked in medieval garb; the finest lords and ladies as well as the lowliest of the peasants surround you at the huge marketplace. Weaving between booths, you are suddenly surprised to see a throng of people gathering in the square. Whispers rush across the crowd as they wait in hushed anticipation. Curious you move forward.

You find yourself standing before a massive array of bells: 35 to be exact, ranging in size from huge to a relative version of small. Arranged neatly in lines on a black support structure, you can see the wires that attach the bell clappers to a strange looking keyboard with rows of wooden handles instead of keys. Rows of large wooden foot pedals rest between the seat and the floor.

Before you can think to ask the tavern wench next to you what this wondrous contraption is, a man walks out from behind a large black wall of speakers. The whispers fall silent. He is dressed all in black: black leather shoes, breeches, a long-sleeved tunic, and a full head mask. A winged mask of gold is the only splash of color to be seen, save for the man's eyes that gaze out over the crowd. With a flourish he puts on black gloves and sits at the keyboard.

Suddenly sound fills the square as the speakers begin to play the back up music. The first bell sounds, a clear note that seems to send a reverberating wave through the crowd. More people stop and gather close to experience the sound more than listen to it. The man plays the pedals with a great deal of flair, his closed fist striking the keys with perfectly placed dramatic pauses. People sway to the beat of the song, until it is over: they clap.

Heads begin to nod in time with the beginning of the next song, a familiar Christmas favorite. The bells in this song ring louder, harder than before. The tavern wench next to you is in tears. More people join the gathering throng. The "Carol of the bells" is so moving that even devout pagan souls are touched. As the last peal of bells sound the entire crowd cheers, lords and ladies alike whoop and whistle.

The final song of this performance begins and whispers fly through the crowd as the melody is recognized (admittedly it was recognized as being from The Exorcist rather than from Carmina Burana). Feet begin to tap, a young girl in the front of the crowd begins to dance. Another young girl closes her eyes, reveling in the feel of the music. Too quickly, the song, and the performance is over. The man stands and whisks off his hood to the cacophony of applause, cheers, and whistles. You have just experienced Cast In Bronze.


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