Church bells are capable of so much more than welcoming congregations to church and tolling out happy wedding peals. These creative bell ringers are showing the true potential of the instrument.

"Space Oddity" – David Bowie

In tribute to the Star Man himself, these funeral bells were far from traditional. Across the world, churches rang out covers of David Bowie's music to celebrate the musician's life and work. 

This church in Utrecht in the Netherlands said their final goodbyes to Major Tom with this cover version of "Space Oddity".

 

 

Game of Thrones theme

The University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US rang out a true Song of Ice and Fire when their official carillonneur Lyle Anderson performed the television show’s theme tune.

A carillon is an instrument consisting of 23 cast bronze bells, usually housed in the bell tower of a church. The heavy keys of the instrument mechanically activate levers and wires connected to metal clappers that strike the inside of the bells.

 

 

"Bohemian Rhapsody" – Queen

Open your eyes, look up to the skies, and listen to the incredible sound pouring from the bell tower of Sydney University.

Another carillon performance, this time playing an intricate cover version of Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody".

Considering the complexity of the original song only makes this adaptation more impressive.

 

 

James Bond theme

A particularly creative PR team advertised the then upcoming Bond venture Spectre by ringing the infamous theme tune from the bells of The Church of Our Saviour in Copenhagen.

 

 

"Hotline Bling" – Drake

In 1932, John D. Rockefeller gifted a 72-bell, 100-ton bronze carillon to the University of Chicago. In 2015, the University Carillonneur performed Drake's Hotline Bling at lunchtime on a Friday. To reach the carillon, we climbed 271 steps to the top of the tower. In the immortal words of Drizzy, "Started from the bottom, now we here."

Posted by Chelsea Vail on Friday, 20 November 2015

In 1932, John D. Rockefeller donated a 100-tonne, 72-bell carillon to the University of Chicago. That same instrument now plays host to thoroughly modern tunes.

Student Chelsea Vail said, “To reach the carillon, we climbed 271 steps to the top of the tower. In the immortal words of Drake, ‘Started from the bottom, now we here.’”

 

 

Harry Potter theme

John Williams would be proud. Jeff Le of the University of Rochester plays the magical theme on the Hopeman Memorial carillon, which has been with the university for 40 years.

Each music student has their own favourite carillon pieces to play, but Blair Germain explains how it’s “fun to play odd things, like the Super Mario Bros. theme song or "Hedwig’s Theme" from Harry Potter.” 

 

 

"Bad Romance" – Lady Gaga 

Time for a peal of pop as Tin-Shi Tam of Iowa performs Lady Gaga’s hit single, "Bad Romance". She agreed to play the track following a petition organised by journalism senior Bradley Riley.

The bells at Iowa first rang in 1899 and have sounded out special performances across campus ever since. Song requests are now accepted every Friday.

 

 

Star Wars theme 

Have church bells ever sounded so ominous?

Clearly as excited as the rest of the world for the return of Star Wars last year, the noon-hour carillon on Parliament Hill in Canada opted to play the theme tune of the franchise on May the 4th (be with you).

 

 

"Comfortably Numb" – Pink Floyd 

Carilloneur Malgosia Fiebig joined forces with piano duo Sandra Mol and Jeroen van Veen to play this incredible Pink Floyd cover back in 2013.

It has become tradition in the city of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, for the Carillon Society to close its summer evening concerts with a showstopper like this. The concert is free every year and hundreds flock to the city to hear the bells.  

 

 

ABBA tribute 

We’ve truly saved the best till last. Another performance from the truly talented Utrecht Carillon Society, this time they’re playing a full hour of ABBA classics, starting with "Dancing Queen" and closing with "Mamma Mia".  

They chose ABBA to mark the 40th anniversary of the band winning Eurovision.

Sit back, and enjoy the bells.

Read more: 5 Great British orchestral moments

You can learn why the ancient tradition of bell ringing still chimes with so many in April's edition of Reader's Digest

Top image by Kate Miller

 

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