Gamers' Corner


Review of the Master of the Bells, Frank DellaPenna

Written by Rebecca Donovan-Tifft

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Cast In Bronze could be called "world music," though our spirit believes that 'another world music' might fit even better. The style is not planned; instead it is spontaneous, alive, and more intense because of it. When asked about his dramatic performance, Frank responds that the carillon player (carillonneur) has been hidden, along with the instrument, for the last 500 years. He wanted to keep the concept, to maintain historic integrity, while taking the bells out of the tower.

As with any career, there were ups and downs for Cast In Bronze, but it is the listeners that keep the bells ringing. "500 years and most people still don't know the carillon exists, so my work has only just begun. That is one reason I do it. The other reason is because I love what the music does for my listeners. I often find listeners in tears at the end of a performance, something that I have never been able to understand. But for some reason they feel a certain power and emotional energy in the music and performance. I continue for the listener."

"The listeners are always responsive," Frank continues. "They are warm and remarkably friendly to me always. I receive wonderful letters and emails from fans all the time, mostly telling me never to stop performing and writing music. Remarkably, they always seem to come when I am frustrated and wondering why I continue. The hardest part about what I do is trying to educate and convince people to allow me to perform for their event, festival, or concert series. Since most people don't know the carillon exists as a musical instrument, it is a difficult thing to convince someone to let a masked performer come to their venue with a four ton instrument that they never heard of before."

Though the instrument was all but forgotten, it should not be classified as an instrument more or less difficult to play than any other. It is physically demanding to play, however, due to its sheer size and the different sets of muscles needed to perform. Some times, though, the hard work pays off. Cast In Bronze has played mass for Pope John Paul II, which included a special part was written for the carillon in the piece called "Processional for a Pontiff." An invitation was given to perform for the Presidential Inauguration, but was declined. Cast In Bronze has also played on the "Today" show and at Disney's Epcot in an unprecedented fourteen month engagement. "The Disney engagement was a gift. It gave me a really unique opportunity to present the music of Cast in Bronze live with live musicians to millions of visitors. Disney was very kind to me and I believe the guests enjoyed the music."

Recording the music of Cast In Bronze always presents a challenge. "Most musicians," Frank explains, "can go into a studio that is quiet and comfortable. The carillon naturally won't fit into most studios and I am not sure it would sound good recorded indoors anyway. The carillon is an outdoor instrument and needs to breathe in a natural setting to sound good. So whenever you make an outdoor recording you have to worry about ambient noise. (airplanes, cars, animal sounds etc.) The other interesting thing to know about the carillon when recording is that unlike many other instruments the carillon has to be recorded from the beginning of the song to the end. If you are playing a song that is 8 minutes long and happen to make a mistake 7 minutes into the song, you cannot punch in at the 7-minute mark like many other musicians. You have to start from the beginning again because of the way the resonance of the bells follows you."

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