8th Berkeley Carillon Festival highlights history of Campanile bells

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University Carillonist Jeff Davis and campus carillonists David Hunsberger, Wesley Arai, Leslie Chan and Erika Anderson performed in the Eighth Berkeley Carillon Festival this weekend.

Free and open to the public, the festival honored the class of 1928, which expanded the Campanile’s 12-bell chime into a 48-bell concert carillon in 1978, according to a UC Berkeley press release.

The festival takes place every five years — excluding 2008 because of financial strain — and features classics such as “All Hail Blue and Gold” alongside local works composed specifically for the carillon inside the Campanile, according to the festival agenda.

“Each (festival) is different from the others,” Davis said in an email. “This year’s focused on compositions, arrangements, music, and performers all from Berkeley or for Berkeley, to celebrate the centennial of the bells at Berkeley.”

The Campanile bells first rang in 1918 during a November football game between UC Berkeley and the University of Washington.

According to the campus press release, the number of bells was expanded twice: once by the class of 1928 and again in 1983 when alumni Jerry and Evelyn Hemmings Chambers expanded the instrument to its present 61 bells. The original 12 bells, a gift from Jane K. Sather, were cast by the Taylor foundry in Loughborough, England.

“The bells are the only thing that the entire community shares,” Davis said in an email. “(They) are heard by everyone: students, staff, faculty, and visitors past, present, and future.”

Davis uses the carillon to bring the community together on a daily basis by playing the instrument regularly, teaching private lessons and advising students on various music classes in which they can train on the instrument for credits. The most accessible of these courses is a DeCal taught by Leslie Chan, a festival performer, former student of Jeff Davis and UC Berkeley doctoral candidate.

Davis began composing at age 6 and said in an email that he has “never not been interested in making music.”

According to the festival agenda, among the event’s most distinctive details was that it featured a program, assembled by Davis, with music from the original Berkeley Chime Book, a book of music composed for the 12 original bells.

Davis said in the agenda that when assembling his program, he wanted to highlight the instrument’s long musical history, adding that the music featured included hymns, anthems, folk songs and Native American songs.

“I remember when I was 20 years old, I came up to this tower and up onto this belfry where we are now, and I heard the bells for the first time,” Davis said in a UC Berkeley video commemorating 100 years of the Campanile. “I remember looking out and saying, ‘You know, this would have to be the coolest job in the world.’ ”

Contact Alexandra Reinecke at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @arhine9.