International Kaunas Carillon Festival: a personal review

When something special happens around you, you should use all your super powers to promote it, even if all you have is your broken english and a blog. I started thinking about it after the second edition of the International Kaunas Carillon Festival. Then Kaunas Art House decided to post on Facebook this photo and I felt it was time to try to say something.

In a couple of weeks I will marry a very special woman, not just to me, but most probably to many other people. Austeja Staniunaityte plays carillon, a very peculiar instrument made of bells and located into the tower of Vytautas Magnus War Museum.
When we happen to talk about this instrument one within the favorite questions we get asked is “How much carillons are there in Italy?”, though the answer is not that funny as there are no carillons in Italy whilst there are plenty of bells.

Apparently, in XVI century, in Flanders, somebody had the idea to assemble various bells with different tones and to reproduce the same music palette of any keyboard instrument, increasing significantly the expressive potential of this instrument.
The second question that usually pops up is “So many churches down there and no carillon, how come?” We, Italians, are the first to associate carillon with religious music (and many others do so), most probably because we cannot conceive that David Bowie could be played on bells. Kaunas Carillon, as many other instruments across the world, was built into a civic building, but probably just music would speak better than me in showing how versatile this instrument can be.

This was surely one among the goals of the last edition of Kaunas Carillon International Festival. There was electronic music, there were pieces from Satie and even from movie soundtracks (here you can find the program). The event took place almost two weeks ago and hosted carillonists from all around the world (Monika Kaźmierczak from Poland, Tiffany Ng from the US and Erik Kure from Denmark), together with local musicians (Austėja Staniunaitytė, Julius Vilnonis and Stanislovas Žilevičius).

The third questions we get asked (my future wife way more than me) is “Is carillon hard to play for a woman?”and Kaunas Festival was the perfect answer. Hopefully I know one and so I know the answer is not foregone too. I had the occasion to meet with other two women carillonists thanks to this festival: one is Monika Kaźmierczak (you can see her talking about her instrument here) that I met first time a couple of years ago during Klaipeda Carillon Festival. Monika is the resident Gdansk carillonist, and assistant professor at the Music Academy in Gdansk, a city she painted so beautifully that it will be impossible from us not to visit.

The other one is Tiffany Ng, instructor of carillon at the University of Rochester and currently assistant professor of carillon at the University of Michigan. We suddenly exchanged many interesting, faceted music and discussed a gig in US she owes me, having spent many beautiful words on me (I owe her a drink for that).
Nothing of this could have happened without the incredible support of Kaunas Art House. There is a team of very talented people constantly working on many exciting projects around the city and it was a pleasure to me to help them and to take part to this fantastic event.

 

 

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