Sunday, 7 August 2011

Loughborough Carillon - Time to get vocal!

Okay, this humble blog is all about my singing exploits primarily, but please excuse me if I drift a little 'off topic' just this once. I wish to address something that has irritated me a bit for quite a while and as it is musical in nature and we are in the midst of the LMVC summer recess, I will get it over with now.

I would like to take this opportunity to get something off my chest regarding Loughborough's Carillon and indeed, it's Carilloneur. Now, call me a sentimental old fool if you like, but I really do believe that it is during austere times such as this, that it is all the more essential to preserve the very things that define a town's character and set it apart from the mere 'ordinary'. Here in the town of Loughborough, we are extremely fortunate to be blessed with something very special and quite unique. We have a Carillon!

By using the word 'unique', I am not saying that it is the only Carillon in the country. There are in fact 14 Carillons in the UK and Ireland with another Carillon-type instrument played via a keyboard as opposed to a clavier, at Spalding in Lincolnshire.  For those that wish to, there is an account of a tour of many of them made by myself, Ruth and Loughborough's Carillonneur, Caroline Sharpe in 2008. Click here for movie files and more!
By unique, I mean its setting. The Loughborough Carillon is the only one set in a purpose built memorial tower, to commemorate the lives of those lost in the Great War. If you pay a visit to the memorial tower in Queen's Park on a Thursday or Sunday to listen to a recital, browse through the museum's exhibits and read the displays of information, you will I'm sure get a pretty good idea of its importance to the town and country.

So you would think that Charnwood Borough Council would hold his magnificent musical instrument in high esteem. Well, maybe I'm missing something, but I get the distinct impression that our beloved councillors are not particularly interested in the Carillon and there is plenty of recent evidence to support that conclusion.

For example: A musical instrument of such size and complexity obviously needs regular maintenance to keep it in shape for its regular recitals. In fact the Carillon has not been 'serviced' (if that's the right word) for a very long time. Caroline informs me that it is dire need of some overdue maintenance just to keep it usable.

Loughborough's previous Carilonneurs were Eric Jordan (1922 - 75), then  Dr. Peter Stratfold (1975 to 1980) and then a gentleman called Peter Shepherd who was Borough Carilloneur until he retired in 2006. Note the title there - 'Borough Carillonneur'. Since the inaugural recital in 1923, Loughborough's Carillonneur has had the title 'Borough Carillonneur' or 'Carillonneur Emeritus' bestowed upon them. Since Peter Shepherd retired in 2006, Caroline Sharpe has taken over the role of Carillonneur but is yet to be awarded any official title. Why? Can anyone on Charnwood Council explain the reasons behind this omission?

Perhaps they should take a little time and effort to consider what Caroline does each year for Loughborough and it's Carillon. Such as:- 
  • preparing twice weekly recitals throughout the spring to autumn
  • maintaining the Loughborough Carillon webite that she herself created
  • publicising recitals on the website and through the local media
  • organising 'Loughborough Carillon Week' each July
And for all this she  is recognised with the embarrassingly inadequate reference of 'Resident Carillonneur'. This dear friends, is a shameful outrage when one considers the effort and commitment Caroline has shown over the last 5 years. Has anyone on Charnwood Council ever considered what state the Carillon would be in if it wasn't for Caroline's efforts on our town's behalf? Well dear Councillors, if you want to see what a neglected Carillon looks like take a look at this  - click here

That's what is left of Parkgate Carillon on the Wirral. Not a pretty sight or sound is it? That is what we would be faced with if Caroline were to throw the towel in and call it a day!

As if all that isn't bad enough, there is also the fiasco of the rearranged 'Picnic in the Park' to explain! This picnic event was originally scheduled for the Bank Holiday Monday, 3oth May, but was postponed due to heavy rain. So someone in their infinite wisdom decided to reschedule for Saturday July 23rd - the penultimate day of Loughborough Carillon Week, an event that has taken place on the same week, each year since the Carillon came into existence. John Ridgeway was scheduled to make the trip from the York Minster Carillon to give a recital. Even allowing for this administrative blunder, one would have thought that at worst, a break of at least one hour could have been arranged to allow him to give his recital as planned, but this was not deemed possible. I think a shortened half hour recital was mooted but discarded. It is something of an insult to expect the Carillonneur from York to make the trip for a mere 30 minutes. The decision to preserve the picnic activity at the expense of the Carillon recital is an utter disgrace and someone in Charnwood council ought to hang their head in shame!

Loughborough Carillon Week is an important week in the town's calendar. It is the one week of the year when the focus specifically is on the Carillon, its tower and the efforts to fund and build it back in the early 1920's, to commemorate the lives lost in the Great War. I think it is about time we had some answers to some fundamental questions regarding the future of Loughborough Carillon.
Watch this space.....

Cheers, Alyn.

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