Washington National Cathedral Announces New Year's Day Carillon Recital

New Year's Day has traditionally been celebrated at Washington National Cathedral with change ringing by the Washington Ringing Society on the Cathedral’s 10-bell peal. That occasion has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cathedral carillonneur Edward M. Nassor continues the bell-ringing tradition by playing a recital on the Cathedral’s 53-bell carillon.

He opens his New Years Day recital with a short fanfare, Changes for Eight Bells. An original composition for carillon follows, by the first carillonneur at the Cathedral, Ronald M. Barnes. His Prelude for Carillon, expresses the joy and optimism appropriate for the first day of a new year. Jacques Maassen was the Director of the Netherlands Carillon School in Amersfoort, Netherlands. His take on the traditional New Year's song, Should Auld Acquaintance (Auld Lang Syne), features soft, gentle chords in the treble bells with the melody rising through the mellifluous texture. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, is a favorite chorale prelude of the Christmas season, presented today on the feast of the The Holy Name. Frederick Marriott, former carillonneur of Kirk in the Hills, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, arranged this holiday classic for carillon.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra released Christmas Canon in 1996, as their tribute to Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D. It has since become one of their most popular recordings, and an enduring Christmas classic in its own right. Aaron David Miller, the organist and choirmaster at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, composed Almanac for Bells as a “Four Seasons” piece for carillon. His final movement, Winter, features a variation on the French carol, Noël Nouvelet. The traditional Ukrainian bell carol that concludes the day's program was arranged by Ronald Barnes. Carol of the Bells is based on a folk song that was traditionally sung on January 13, New Year's Eve in the Julian calendar, and is a fitting way to end this New Year's Day carillon recital.

Program on 53 bells

12:30-1:00pm  |  Edward M. Nassor, Carillonneur

Changes for Eight Bells
Edward M. Nassor (b.1957)

Prelude for Carillon
Ronald M. Barnes (1927-1997)

Should Auld Acquaintance
Jacques Maassen (1947-2013)

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), arr. Frederick Marriott (1901-1989)

Christmas Canon
Trans-Siberian Orchestra (1996), arr. Edward M. Nassor

Winter, from Almanac for Bells
Aaron David Miller (b.1972)

Carol of the Bells
Ukrainian Bell Carol, arr. Ronald Barnes

Meet the carillonneur: Edward M. Nassor

Edward M. Nassor is the fourth carillonneur of Washington National Cathedral. He joined the Cathedral’s music staff in late 1990, where he performs preludes to religious services, in addition to weekly recitals and special events. Since carillon music is usually heard outside, without printed programs, Mr. Nassor strives to create recitals that enable the listener to identify the liturgical season, the time of day, civic and religious holidays, and sometimes even the weather, by listening to the bell music emanating from the Cathedral’s Central Tower.

His recitals generally include selections from the common-practice period in classical music, as well as original carillon compositions, arrangements based on folk melodies, and sacred music. Occasionally popular and gospel music is played, as when he performed a prelude for a concert by Aretha Franklin. One of his more unusual performances was playing the carillon with Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar, during two benefit concerts at the Cathedral. Mr. Nassor loves playing the carillon at the Cathedral, which he claims, “…is one of the most perfectly tuned, large sets of bells in the world."