For nearly 30 years, Tammy Bucy has found solace and a deep connection with God through playing the Carillon bells. Now she wants to share that experience with the next generation. For more information and to schedule a tour, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The choir comes in at 8 a.m. to rehearse. Tammy Bucy is there, but not to sing. She takes note of the day’s hymns, says hello to some friends, and begins climbing the circular stairs of the bell tower.
“It’s just so wonderful up here,” she says as she sits down at the carillon console. “A lot of people think these bells are mechanical or automated in some way. It’s so fun to show them that there are real bells in the bell tower and that there’s a real person playing them. It’s an act of hospitality, I think, to welcome people to this church like this.”
In the 80’s, Bob Stigall, who was the director of music at the time, spearheaded an effort to install a carillon in the bell tower. There had been a single bell for many years, but the thought was that an instrument of this size and scope would make beautiful music in celebration and worship of God. John Taylor & Company from Loughborough, England designed and built the carillon, following other projects to bring the instrument to the Washington National Cathedral, Duke and Yale Universities, and the Bok Tower in Florida.
“They also installed a practice console, and that’s when I first got the bug. Bob encouraged folks to just sit down and play it.” Tammy jumped at the opportunity. “I played a folk song, ‘Galopede, which I had just learned to play on the hammered dulcimer and it ‘fit’ perfectly under the fists to play on the carillon. I was hooked for sure!”
When she retired from teaching full time, Tammy doubled down on the instrument she fell in love with some thirty years ago, playing frequently on Sundays and throughout the week.
The carillon has a certain magnetism, especially for young people. “A few years ago, Lee [Northcutt] asked if I’d like to show some of the Weekday School children what it’s like up here. I loved every minute of it. The children come up for about thirty minutes and get to see the bells, learn about the carillon, and even get the chance to play it for a little while.”
“There aren’t that many of these that are actually played by humans,” Tammy notes, “it’s so fun to share that with people, especially little ones. I always encourage them to get their parents and come up when they hear the bells ringing. I would love it more than anything to have some people, young people, old people, whatever, just come try it out. That’s the thing: It’s not that hard. Just try!”
Summertime is when the carillonneurs, Debi Price, Amy House, Susan Bliss, and Tammy Bucy, really get to shine. “Lemonade on the Lawn is the big time of the year for us. There are so many folks gathered outside after worship, and we always try to play a good thirty minutes or so for them. I’m not sure how many are really listening, but I hope they’re being entertained.”
Learn more about the Carillon and take a video tour here.