The tower of the old City Hall as seen from the tower of the basilica of St. Mary  

GDANSK - At the opening convocation of the 2006 Congress of the World Carillon Federation, former Polish president and Nobel Laureate Lech Walesa honored dozens of firefighters and policemen gathered in full regalia at Artus Court for rescuing St. Catherine's Church and its carillon from destruction by fire in May 2006. The magnificent Renaissance court and Town Hall of Gdansk, Poland, once meeting places for the aristocracy, functioned as centers of activity for the five-day congress, hosted by the Polish Carillon Society with ceremony and splendor. The opening events set the tone for a week of recitals by international performers, developments in scholarship, presentations of new compositions, and technical evaluations of carillon and keyboard building, all steeped in a wealth of Polish history and culture.

Tiffany Ng   ________________________________________________

Gdansk is the home of the country's only two carillons, one of forty-nine bells in St. Catherine's Church (1990) and one of thirty-seven in the Town Hall (2000), both the work of Royal Eijsbouts. The meantone temperament of the Town Hall's carillon pays homage to the sixteenth-century chime by Johannes Moor of 's-Hertogenbosch that commemorated every important civic event until the destruction of all but three of its bells in 1945. As a new instrument in a historic temperament, the carillon also reflects the new yet historically cognizant purpose of the building as the Historical Museum of Gdansk.

The carillon of the twelfth-century St. Catherine's Church has an even more dramatic history, consumed by a lightning-sparked fire in 1905, cast anew by Schilling in Thuringia in 1908, and requisitioned by the Third Reich in 1942. World War II reduced the cupola to rubble. Yet despite the latest tragic fire in St. Catherine's Church, which was stopped just meters away from the playing cabin, the carillon survives. While we may hope that Poland will build more carillons after the success of the WCF Congress, we must also admire the tenacity with which it has maintained the ones it possesses.

True to the congress theme of the carillon as "the historical instrument for the future", the PCS organized a recital lineup of dramatic contrasts. Henk Verhoef and Geert D'hollander played programs of early and Baroque music suited to the Town Hall bells, while Frans Haagen played an electroacoustic concert at St. Catherine's Church that drew the intense interest of passersby. The Bell's Angels duo of Twan Bearda and Luc Rombouts performed transcriptions, and Todd Fair gave a recital of recent works.

Young artists Monika Kazmierczak and Malgosia Fiebig ably represented the host guild with recitals featuring Polish composers. Wim Ruitenbeek represented the NKV with works by Courter and Mozart, and Wilhelm Ritter represented the DGV with German compositions and a work by Johann Ephraim Eggert. The recitals of Michel Goddefroy (GCF) and Timothy Hurd (CSA) showcased a variety of styles, as did the NSCK recital by Sinikka Honkanen, Laura Marie Rueslåtten, and Ann-Kirstine Christiansen. Christian Boon (ACW) played 20th-century works, and Giedrius Kuprevicius (LCG) presented his newest composition for carillon and tape. GCNA recitalist John Courter's concert included several of his original works, and Liesbeth Janssens represented the VBV with new Flemish compositions.

The quality of recitals was generally high, but not consistently so. Quality control of guild recitals remains the responsibility of the member guilds, but hosting guilds should also maintain a rigorous selection standard for guest artists.

The first three lectures thoughtfully placed the history of music, particularly 18th and 19th century carillon repertoire, into the context of Gdansk's long history and international influences on its culture. The area's musical resources made it apparent that Polish music history is not as widely studied as it deserves to be. These lectures culminated in Frank Deleu's presentation on the manuscripts of Gdansk 18th-century carillon composer Johann Ephraim Eggert and the publication of a beautiful facsimile edition of Eggert's Choral-Lieder zu dem Glockespiel der Altstädtschen Ober Pfarr-Kirche zu St. Catherinen ausgesetzt mit Variationes (1784), from whence the congress's logo comes. This collection for automatic carillon, also playable manually, is accompanied by a CD of selected recordings and MIDI files that will be expanded in a forthcoming CD-ROM. The manuscript offers valuable insights into repertoire and use of the automatic drum and invites further research.

A day at the vast 13th-century Malbork Castle, the largest fortified Gothic building in Europe, looked to the future development of the instrument. The Keyboard Committee delivered its much anticipated announcement of a World Standard Carillon Keyboard, elaborated in a separate article. This was followed by remarks from Timothy Hurd and a presentation by Marc van Eyck on the need for a Carillon Quality Standard (Beiaard Kwaliteits Standaard [BKS] - Norm) and an International Carillon Quality Center to ensure the involvement of informed carillonneurs in the construction of new carillons to baseline standards.

"Modern Music Day" featured two engaging multimedia presentations, one by John Courter on "Contemporary American Music" and one by Tin-Shi Tam on "Bells and Bell Music in China." In "Back to the Future", Luc Rombouts and Carl Van Eyndhoven used case studies to illustrate the inadequate integration of developments in musicology with research into historical Flemish carillon music, an issue to be addressed by a three-year project within the Research Platform of the K. U. Leuven Association. A second general assembly in Arthur's Court featured a preview of the 2008 congress in Groningen, the Netherlands.

Congress attendees later received a Congress Book in the mail that placed valuable details from the lectures and congress proceedings at their fingertips. Typographical errors and omissions of some diagrams and footnotes, however, indicate the need for more careful copyediting.

Renowned composer Kryzsztof Penderecki directed the Sinfonietta Cracovia and Polish Baltic Philharmonic in a fine concert for the WCF with a program that included his own works. After the announcement of Wylie Crawford as Adrian Gebruers' successor as WCF President, a banquet ended the festivities in Arthur's Court, and each participant left with a literally just-minted commemorative congress coin. The Polish Post also issued a commemorative postage stamp for the congress.

Despite a shortage of vegetarian fare in receptions and meals and a stubborn climate control alarm during Penderecki's concert, the PSC organized a truly professional congress generously supported by the city, state, and Historical Museum of Gdansk. From securing historic venues to transporting attendees to remote sites by land and water, the PSC's planning was entirely professional. The city of Gdansk itself offered more cultural treasures than any visitor could see within a few days, and elements of traditional Polish culture enlivened the Congress events. With its outstanding performers and organizers, the PSC is sure to host more memorable events in coming years, and I eagerly anticipate the realization of Poland's unique vision of the carillon as a historical instrument for the future.