By Sophie Hills

Senior Carson Landry received a Fulbright fellowship last week to study the carillon and centuries-old carillon music in Belgium for the coming year. His research will produce one of the few books of original carillon music available today.

“I’m super excited about the opportunity,” says Landry, a music major who began playing the carillon in the spring of his sophomore year—two years ago. 

“It is a tremendous honor to have one of our students selected for something like this, and it’s a testament to Carson’s hard work, and it’s a real shining spot for Principia and for our music program,” says Joe Van Riper, chair of the music department.

“Carson is an incredibly thoughtful, dedicated student [and] amazingly talented young man and really multifaceted in his musical abilities,” Van Riper says.

“It is a very prestigious program and we’re so delighted that he’s going to be able to participate in it, especially with this unique instrument,” says Rose Whitmore, associate professor of music and college organist.

As part of the fellowship, Landry will study at the Royal Carillon School in Belgium, says Carlo van Ulft, adjunct instructor of carillon at Principia College. Additionally, Landry will research some of the very first carillon music to be collected and documented.

“The goal is to have a package prepared for publication by the end of the grant period,” says Landry, who starts the 10-month program Sept. 1.

“I’m really grateful [for van Ulft]. He was the person who gave me this whole idea to begin with and served as my primary support for the project proposal and all, so he certainly deserves a lot of credit for that.”

Van Ulft has offered to publish Landry’s transcription under the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon in Springfield, Illinois, where he is director and carillonneur.

“It will be quite an important project that he will do and it’s going to be a great service that he is going to be providing to the carillon world in general,” says van Ulft. “To be selected for [a Fulbright] is quite an honor, but it also proves that the subject that he is working on is of importance to more than just Principia or Carson and me.”

Van Ulft has enjoyed working with Landry in part because of his extensive background as a musician, he says. “That really made it easy for us to work together.”

“I’m sure that [Landry] will have a lot to contribute and share after having had a chance to study in person in Belgium,” says Whitmore.

“That’s where everything started, 500 years ago,” says van Ulft, referring to the countries now known as Belgium, the Netherlands, and a small part of northern France.

Playing a carillon is very similar to playing an organ; feet and legs produce as much music as hands. “That doesn’t come naturally to everyone,” says van Ulft, but it came very naturally to Carson.”

The Jean L. Rainwater Carillon at Principia was part of a gift of the Rainwater family, who also established an endowment providing lessons free to Principia students.

Landry expressed his gratitude to the Rainwater family. “Obviously if we didn’t have a carillon on campus I would never have had this opportunity.”

The lessons are “an amazing blessing for these Principia students to get to learn from a master teacher like Carlo,” says Van Riper.

Van Ulft began teaching carillon at Principia College in 1998. Van Ulft holds European masters-level degrees in organ performance, carillon performance and theatre organ performance. He was formerly Municipal Carillonist for four cities in his native Netherlands.

During the academic year he comes once a week, usually on Thursdays, and teaches students and plays a half-hour carillon concert. He has been teaching Carson for about three years.

There are only 600 carillons in the world, says van Ulft, “so it’s a unique opportunity for students to get acquainted with such a special instrument.”

Featured photo at top courtesy of Carson Landry. Carson stands next to the largest bell of the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon in Springfield, Illinois.