Lurie Carillon concert to highlight music of Black inspiration


The Lurie Carillon will fill North Campus with music designed to amplify the voices of people of color during the “MLK, Agency and Action” concert from 1:30-2 p.m. Jan. 27. 


The free event will include original pieces, arrangements and African-American spirituals performed by carillonist Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra.

“(The carillon) is a huge instrument, and it’s meant for the public,” Ruiter-Feenstra said. “It should ring out and tell the stories of everyone who hears it. My hope is that any audience member hearing it will find some part of themselves reflected in the story.”

Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra

Ruiter-Feenstra has been playing the carillon, an instrument with large keys and pedals that activate the clappers of bronze tower bells, for 10 years. U-M has two carillons: in the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Tower at 1230 Murfin Ave. on North Campus, and the Charles Baird Carillon in the Burton Memorial Tower on Central Campus. 

Ruiter-Feenstra said carillons date back to the renaissance and early baroque periods in Europe. Much of the music that has been played on them over the centuries was written by white men, but Ruiter-Feenstra and Tiffany Ng, university carillonist, are working to change that. Ruiter-Feenstra composes new social action-themed works, and Ng has been intentional about arranging and commissioning pieces by women composers and composers of color.

“As a carillonist, I feel a responsibility to play music that reflects the community,” Ruiter-Feenstra said. “Tiffany and I have both been committed to developing a repertoire that speaks to the communities today and that lifts up the voices that have been missing from the carillon story.”

Ruiter-Feenstra said she feels it’s important to highlight the rich identities and histories of indigenous people and people of color.

“Black identity has always been richly complex. Martin Luther King Jr.’s identity models Black agency and action,” Ruiter-Feenstra wrote in the program for the concert. “This program lifts up the memory of MLK, stands with #BlackLivesMatter, and calls us to be people of agency and action now.”

The concert will include a piece called “MLK’s March.” Ruiter-Feenstra wrote it to teach children about King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Another selection of music, “The Music of March: A Civil Rights Carillon Collection,” was edited by Ng and is adapted from the music that appears in the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ graphic memoir trilogy, “March.”

The concert will also include the African-American spirituals “Go Down, Moses” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” as well as “Once Upon a Time …,” a piece that Ruiter-Feenstra composed in honor of author Toni Morrison. “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem, will close the concert.

Music from the Lurie Carillon can be heard up to two miles away. People are invited to stroll around the tower (in a socially distanced way) during the concert, or listen to the music from their cars in the parking lot. 



  1. Marjorie Lynn
    on January 25, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    How do we hear this “at home”?

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