Burton Tower rings in memory of 9/11

Sunday, September 11, 2016 - 3:01pm

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance hosted a noontime carillon recital in remembrance of 9/11 at Burton Memorial Tower on Sunday.

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance hosted a noontime carillon recital in remembrance of 9/11 at Burton Memorial Tower on Sunday. Buy this photo
Amelia Cacchione/Daily


About 25 families and individuals gathered on the University of Michigan’s Ingalls Mall to listen to a 9/11 memorial recital Sunday. The concert was a performance of the carillon bells, which are housed in Burton Tower and controlled by a series of levers and pedals. The recital took place at noon.

Tiffany Ng, assistant professor of carillon, organized the concert and performed. Ng said she felt this recital was part of her duty to the community.

“As University carillonist, playing both for the campus and the community, I strongly feel that it’s my responsibility on days like this to provide a place of reflection and a place of commemoration,” she said.

She added that given the carillon's ability to portray a series of emotions, memorials like this are an important part of the purpose of the carillon as an instrument.

“I think that’s one of the roles of the carillon, that we don’t just peal for joyous occasion and to accompany people’s lunchtime breaks, but that we also bring a seriousness and solemnity to the campus soundscape for those days of memorial, when we remember in particular the first responders who all over the country, every day, are putting themselves on the line for us,” Ng said.

The recital opened with a performance by Ann Arbor Fire Chief Larry Collins, who rang the “Last Alarm.” This involved the ringing of the largest carillon bell three times, symbolizing the three rings of a fire station’s bell to signal the end of the fire to memorialize the first responders who lost their lives on Sept. 11.

Chief Collins, who has been in his current office for two years, said it was a unique and moving experience for him.

“I can say I have never done anything like this before,” he said. “I was really honored to be asked to participate.”

He added that the memorial was an effective way to honor the past and the tragedy 15 years ago.

“It means a lot to the community; it means a lot to the first responders,” Collins said. “Time has a way of diminishing the impact of tragic events that transpired, and it’s really appropriate, I think, to give pause and reflect on what transpired.”

After the “Last Alarm,” Ng performed several pieces on the carillon. The first was “In Memoriam — September 11, 2001,” which composer John Courter composed a few days after the attacks in 2001. Ng said she chose the other pieces based on the sound of this particular piece.

“I chose other pieces that were in a similar style, of magnificent, resonant and mournful music, interspersed with a couple more lyrical pieces and a piece that hopefully gives people hope, ‘Imagine,’ ” she said.

Ng also noted that the memorial was important to her personally, having started her undergraduate studies at Yale University shortly before the attack in New York.

“It was sort of the first thing that happened to me when I entered adulthood, to experience this tragedy,” she said. “From the top of the carillon tower at Yale, you could see the smoke from the Twin Towers. I think it deserves commemorating and living on in our memories every year.”

Collins said he appreciated the overall effect of the memorial, and was surprised by the number of people who came to listen.

“I was really impressed with the overall program, standing down in the plaza and listening to that,” he said. “I was impressed with the number of folks that showed up. They came and went, but there were a fair number of folks who just stayed out there on the plaza. I think that showed a lot of respect. I’m thankful for Tiffany and the University doing that.”

Ng also said part of the event’s success was owed to the quality of the instrument, adding that she hopes to continue this memorial on Sept. 11 in years to come.

“These English bells, cast in 1935 in Loughborough, England have a very deep, resonant and mournful sound that’s perfect for memorial repertoire, I think,” she said. “It works just so well here.”