February 19, 2010

Seen the view from Rockefeller? Probably not

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Many students know that Rockefeller Chapel is the tallest structure on campus, but few take advantage of the views it offers. On a clear day, they extend from the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago to the outline of Gary, IN, opening up to the few students and tourists who attend the chapel’s tours, offered twice weekly and once every Sunday.

Joan Krenzer, a veteran carillon player and tour guide, led Monday evening’s tour, which also covered the Chapel’s bells. Crowds are typically small and sometimes no one shows up at all.

Krenzer wishes more undergraduates came to hear the carillon—a series of 72 bells ranging in size from 15 pounds to 18 tons—but said more tourists come in the summer for the chapel’s annual carillon festival. During the school year, few people attend, despite the bird’s-eye view of campus. “It’s a great place to bring parents when they visit,” Krenzer said. “I think it would be great if more kids did it.”

The tour winds up 220 steps (10-12 stories), allowing visitors to step underneath the largest bell in the tower, glimpse the antique and modern machinery used to play the tower’s bells, and walk around the outside of the tower. “There’s something for everyone to get excited about,” Krenzer said.

At top of the tower, the guide plays the carillon, refurbished last year. The chapel’s carillon is the second largest instrument of its kind in the world, Krenzer said. The carillon player moves the clapper for each bell using a keyboard-like instrument. “I hope people never get tired of hearing the bells,” Krenzer said.

There are 10 carillon players at Rockefeller Chapel; seven are students. “Students are lucky they get this opportunity,” Krenzer said. “In some places, only the best play.” Students can take carillon lessons at Rockefeller Chapel, and might get the chance to play a few notes on the tour.

Tours leave from the east side of Rockefeller Chapel at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. every weekday and 11:30 a.m. on Sundays; weekday recitals occur at noon and 6:00 p.m, and on Sunday at 12:15 p.m.