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Restoring the UP Carillon’s history

By Marcos de Guzman Jr.
Inquirer
First Posted 00:07:00 06/09/2007

Filed Under: Architecture

MANILA, Philippines -- Among our five sense, hearing is what remains to function up to the moment a person breathes his last. This made me consider that even though architectural pieces are delights to the sense of sight, combining it with a beautiful sound contributes to its even more lasting legacy. This characteristic can only be found in very few structures and a carillon tower is one of them.

In the Philippines and in Southeast Asia, there is only one existing carillon that is manually played using a clavier. This is found at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Its keyboard is made of rounded wooden keys for the hands and short pedals for the feet. When these are struck by the musician who also called the carillonneur, the metal clappers attached to them hit the bells and produce a charming chime.

Tower clocks

William Rice, an expert in this musical instrument, defined a carillon as a set of bells tuned to the intervals of the chromatic scale. It has a range of three octaves or more. The bell with the lowest pitch weighs many tons. As the pitch increases the bells weigh less. Those in the higher octave would only weigh a few pounds. The word originated from ?quatrillon? referring to an arrangement of four bells attached to tower clocks that sound at every hour. This musical clock later developed into a carillon.

For National Artist for Architecture and Carillon?s consulting architect Juan F. Nakpil, the carillon ?is an imposing structure of mortar, steel and bronze, rising above the campus for all to see, hear and enjoy? For years this...will continue to sound its music as a spiritual and emotional link between the succeeding generations??

Since its inauguration in Aug. 1, 1952 many attested how the carillon has been their companion from early morning national anthem and university hymn to classical music and festive songs at designated time of the day. However, the aspiration of its architect together with the carillon?s pioneers UP Music Conservatory director Ramon Tapales and UP president Bienvenido Gonzales has been silenced when the carillon ceased to function from 1970 until its restoration in 1981. Then, for the last time the bells were played during the Lantern Parade in 1988.

A comprehensive restoration was the joint recommendation of the Royal Bell Foundry Petit & Fritsen of Holland and the Royal Bell Philippines. The project was spearheaded by UP Alumni Association. This P20-million restoration project will include a major cleanup as well as repairs and repainting of walls, floors and concrete elements of this 130-foot tall structure.

To be replaced

The existing 46 bells will be replaced with totally new ones and 3 more bells will be added to produce four octaves plus one note. The clavier will now be made of oak wood which is designed for heavy-duty performances. Steel frames will be refurbished to hold the bells. Aside from its manual playing, it can also be programmed to automatically operate at specific times of the day. Furthermore, a carillon plaza with a mixture of brick, stone and tile finishing and a well-laidout landscaping will encircle the tower.

The Carillon is not just part of our history. It also continues to write its story. As a structure, it echoes the university?s glorious past and the country that has just been liberated from the war. With its rich history, it stands tall and symbolizes the many people who had worked their way to bring this idea to reality, and then to a timeless legacy. Not even the war had destroyed the idea of a tower that sings to its free people. Now, not even deterioration nor can financial constraint stop the dedicated people from passing it on to the next generation. Instead, this will form part of another chapter that showcases and enriches its history.

For more information about the project and how you can help, visit www.upcarillon.org.



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