Carillon players honor Armistice Day with songs at the Campanile

Anissa Nishioka/File

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On Sunday at 11 a.m., the exact time the World War I armistice was announced 100 years ago, the national anthems of the United States, England and France rang out of the Campanile. Later that day, the blustering wind carried additional patriotic music across campus.

The campus department of music was one of multiple organizations around the country that participated in the United States World War I Centennial Commission’s “Bells of Peace” event Sunday. The concert that came after at 2 p.m. included songs such as “Yankee Doodle,” “Simple Gifts” and “America the Beautiful.” Fifth-year graduate student Leslie Chan and seventh-year graduate student Erika Anderson played the carillon during this event.

“It’s a unique honor to represent the campus and recreate the celebrations that happened here 100 years ago,” Chan, who began playing the “fascinating instrument” in Berkeley, said in an email.

When the armistice was announced in Berkeley in 1918, all of the bells in Berkeley played for two hours, according to University Carillonist Jeff Davis who directs the carillon program. He added that the campus bells, which were then a chime, played songs such as hymns, patriotic melodies and anthems.

During the morning’s national anthems, several spectators stood with their hands behind their backs, looking at the ground. Berkeley resident Antoine Wojdyla, originally from France, placed a bouquet of white flowers on the grass in front of the Campanile and continued to stand in remembrance after the music ended.

“I came to celebrate those who died for liberty and because it’s important to celebrate the veterans and avoid the same mistakes,” Wojdyla said. “My grandfather was Polish, and most of my family died during World War II. I want to pay tribute to this, and I’m thankful for the U.S. for being a beacon of freedom and liberty.”

Later that day, Anderson played “God Bless America” on the carillon. She said she found the fact that the song’s writer, Irving Berlin, was a Jewish immigrant fleeing persecution particularly compelling. She added that it seemed to be in line with the idea that many of the things people think of as fundamentally American were created by immigrants.

As the wind, carrying smoke from the recent fires, whipped through the leaves of a nearby tree Sunday afternoon, two other spectators sat on a nearby bench to listen.

“I think it’s nice, but just given the times that we are in, I feel like the sense of patriotism they are trying to put out — it’s kind of (dampened) by the fires and the current administration,” said Noah Wang, a student from San Luis Obispo.

Many passers-by, walking swiftly to avoid the wind and the polluted air, said they appreciated the event. Campus graduate student Steve Purugganan mentioned that it was really nice to hear a recognizable melody.

“It’s important to celebrate these past events,” said Miles King, campus sophomore and carillonist. “(The connection between the carillon and the Campanile) has an important place in the campus culture and history.”

Staff writer Thao Nguyen also contributed to this report.

Contact Boyce Buchanan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @BuchananBoyce.