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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Amy Johnson plays the bells at the BYU Carillon Bell Tower.

PROVO — Families with young children, couples in love and elderly singles gather on the grass below the Centennial Carillon bell tower at Brigham Young University to hear Freedom Festival music every year.

This is an unusual kind of concert where the audience is welcome to picnic, read a good book, visit, or just sit back and revel in the sound of the 52 bronze bells playing at the top of the 97-foot tower.

No one minds if the kids get up and run around, chase the ducks or play in the waterfall.

It's a sweet, relaxing kind of evening — except for the carillonneurs who are hard at work inside pumping out the tunes on long, wooden, pedal-type keys that look similar to those of an organ but require a whole different approach. (You can see the carillonneurs playing on a monitor on the east side of the plaza.)

Using four hands, Brian Mathias and Don Cook presented a piece for a musical clock by Beethoven. Amy Johnson and Mathias combined their talents in three folk song arrangements with Billy Boy prompting some singalong.

Cook and Johnson played a Concert for Two to Play by Ronald Barnes and Russell Sorensen, and Cook closed the hour's program with "The Stars and Stripes Forever." (A CD that includes "Stars and Stripes" is available at the campus bookstore.)

The music itself is interesting as the bells — which range in size from 21 pounds to 4,730 pounds — add a resonance that isn't quite gone before the next bells play. It makes for a beautiful pastoral effect.

Cook participates in the festival concert yearly. Johnson and Mathias, who learned the carillon art from Cook, perform the daily noon recitals.

Help buy bells

There are spaces on the north side of the bell chamber for two new large bells. To help buy these bells, contact Don Cook at the BYU School of Music at 422-3260.

E-mail: [email protected]