St. Colman's Cathedral  

COBH - The thirteenth congress of the World Carillon Federation took place in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland, from Sunday July 28 to Thursday August 1, 2002. A visit to University College Cork was included in the programme. The British Carillon Society acted as host of the Congress. The theme of the congress was "The Carillon and the Music of the People". This was the first occasion that this now biannual event took place in Ireland or Great Britain.

Hylke Banning   ______________________________________________

Cobh (pronounced "Cove") has a population of 10,000 and is situated on the largest island in Cork Harbour. The only link between this island and the mainland is by way of road and railway bridges at Belvelly. Cobh is a picturesque and historic harbour town on Ireland's south coast. When Queen Victoria paid Cobh a visit in 1849 the name of the town was changed to Queenstown in her honour. The town was not renamed Cobh again until 1921. The town is now a major tourist destination. Cork Airport and Ringaskiddy Ferry Port are a 30-minute drive from Cobh, and both have regular international services.

Cobh is particularly known as the point of departure of the many emigrant ships to the United States. In 1912 Cork Harbour was the last port of call of the "Titanic" before the flagship of the White Star Line started its first trans-Atlantic crossing, collided with an iceberg and sank, as a result of which 1,503 people perished. Three years later, in 1915, the British liner "Lusitania" of the Cunard Line was torpedoed near the south coast of Ireland by a German submarine. In all, 1,198 persons on board found a watery grave. Tragic events that definitely left their mark on Cobh. The inhabitants are daily reminded of these disasters through the two memorials in the town centre.

St. Colman's Cathedral is a massive, yet graceful, church of French Gothic architecture. Construction started in 1868 and was finished in 1919. The fully chromatic four-octave 49-bell carillon of St. Colman's Cathedral (bourdon 3,629 kg) is a Taylor instrument dating from 1916 which was restored, modernised and enlarged by Royal Eijsbouts in 1998. It is now the largest carillon in Ireland and Britain in terms of number of bells. It is a transposing instrument, in A. The specification of the console is North-American standard. There is also a state-of-the-art practice console. Adrian Gebruers is carillonneur, besides also being organist and choirmaster of the Cathedral. He succeeded his father Staf Gebruers in this position in 1970.

Dr. John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne, and Professor G.T. Wrixon, President of University College Cork, were the Congress patrons. Bishop Magee showed his appreciation for the WCF Congress taking place in Cobh in that he himself officiated at a special Mass on the opening day of the Congress. Representatives of various national carillon associations participated in this impressive Mass in reciting selected texts. During the offertory procession, the Bishop was "symbolically" presented with a small bell from the board of the British Carillon Society.

The official opening of the Congress took place in the Sirius Arts Centre in the presence of the Mayor of Cobh and many dignitaries. During the hearty welcome many different drinks and refreshments were served. About 170 participants had registered, among them more than 100 carillonneurs.

The organising committee had invited all members of the WCF to select one senior and one junior carillonneur as a delegate. Since the WCF has 12 members by now, this meant that during the Congress the carillon of the Cathedral as well as the travelling carillon were frequently played. Furthermore, there were some carillonneurs invited personally to give a recital.

Inevitably, not all recitals were equally appreciated by the delegates and occasionally the playing or the repertoire was considered unsatisfactory by some. Whereas there were a few quatre mains performances and one very much appreciated concert by carillonneur Rosemarie SeuntiŽns on the (travelling) carillon incorporating four arrangements for carillon and a (tape-recorded) orchestra, it was perhaps a pity that the Congress programme could not have included more performances presenting the carillon in an unconventional way.

The carillon in the tower was best listened to from the lawn in front of the Scout Hall. There everyone could also supply themselves with coffee. The roof of the Commodore Hotel was also a good listening spot. Unfortunately, the weather during the Congress was frequently dull and rainy.

On Tuesday a visit to Cork was scheduled. Cork, a city with a population of 200,000 situated on the river Lee, is about 24 kilometres from Cobh. University College Cork, established in 1845, comprises eight faculties, among them the Music Department. One of the lecture-rooms was reserved for six lectures about various subjects: "In search of the origin of the carillon: an interdisciplinary approach" (Luc Rombouts), "The carillon and the music of the people: Leen 't Hart and his folksong arrangements" (Laura Meilink-Hoedemaker), "Carillons in the context of community bells" (David H. Shayt), "The carillon and pop music" (Carlo van Ulft), "What to play on the carillon - and therefore never send to know for whom the carillon plays - it plays for thee" (Carl Van Eyndhoven), "The impact on carillon culture of the renewed interest in folksong in 19th century Europe" (Koen Cosaert).

Luc Rombouts investigated the origin of the word "carillon" and found some unexpected meanings and wordings. David Shayt, employed by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, made a plea for the adding of a carillon to the memorial that is going to be erected on Ground Zero in New York in memory of the victims of the attack on the buildings of the World Trade Center. Though some time was given after the six lectures for the audience to ask questions, a longer period would have been welcome.

Before and after the lectures and during the lunch the travelling carillon of Royal Eijsbouts was set up on the inner court of the university buildings. At that place the conference participants, seated on the grass, and a lot of passers-by were presented with several recitals.

Receptions and dinners usually happen in the Aula Maxima. But because this hall was in the process of renovation, the reception and Congress banquet took place in the main restaurant of the university. Bishop Magee and President Wrixon were the special guests of the evening. All members of the organizing committee were also present at this dinner. These were, besides Adrian Gebruers and his wife Elizabeth Gebruers, Professor David Cox, his wife Roslyn Cox, Kevin O'Donovan, Frank Walley and Father Donal O'Mahony. The evening went by in an extremely harmonious atmosphere and ended late with the singing of a large number of national songs of the countries represented by the members of the WCF.

The majority of the delegates were accommodated in the Commodore Hotel. This was also the location of the general Congress activities. Every evening an event was organised in the Jack Doyle Room. Everybody was able to become acquainted with traditional Irish dancing. One of the evenings featured music played on original Irish instruments.

The Fleming Marc Van Eyck recorded a video of the passage by boat of the travelling carillon from France to Ireland, sponsored by Royal Eijsbouts and the Irish Ferries, and the subsequent round trip of the travelling carillon through several Irish cities and villages in the south. This video was shown on the last evening in Cobh. Responses and comments of the public on the appearance of this unfamiliar instrument were remarkable.

There was an open forum discussion on Monday about the new Keyboard 2000 led by Bob van Wely, chair of the WCF keyboard committee. Various carillons have been equipped with the new keyboard that was designed by Richard Strauss.

Also the selling of books, CD's and sheet-music took place in the Cobh Parish Centre and in the Jack Doyle Room of the Commodore Hotel. However, the supply was somewhat less compared to previous congresses, probably because the representatives of Dutch publishers were strangely enough absent.

Organizing a few excursions during the Congress is almost a tradition. This time a visit to the Fota Wildlife Park and a trip to the world-famous Jameson's whiskey distillery in Midleton were scheduled. After a short guided tour everyone was allowed to try a drop of whiskey and was obviously able to purchase some. There was also a visit to the village of Cloyne to view a ninth-century 'round tower', still in a remarkably fine state of preservation.

Earlier that week delegates were given the opportunity to explore Cobh Harbour on a boat trip. Also, the Cobh Heritage Centre was a most rewarding visit. In bygone days, emigrants departed from this building for America. Images and sounds in this museum give the visitor an impression of the scenes that took place in those days around the departure of these emigrants.

The fireworks display planned as a closing of the Congress was cancelled. The weather was anyhow not suitable. An alternative "firework" was displayed by two fire-floats from Cork Harbour which, drifting in a dense fog in front of Cobh waterfront, demonstrated the power of their water cannons.

The Congress went by smoothly, not least because activities started almost always on time. Most carillonneurs and bell lovers look back on a sociable Irish week with lots of opportunities to catch up on news or get better acquainted.

It is a fact that Adrian Gebruers has undertaken an arduous task in organizing this thirteenth world congress. He was not only the President of the WCF, but also Honorary President of the British Carillon Society, chair of the organizing committee, and carillonneur of Cobh. For the way he performed that task he was thanked by Vice-President Andreas Friedrich during the final general meeting, which was greeted with a prolonged applause.

On leaving on Friday morning the well-known parting song Auld Lang Syne sounded through the boulevard, accompanied by Adrian Gebruers on the travelling carillon.