DENVER - A golden needle in a haystack of a city, the University of Denver's campus holds a secret 200 feet above the ground.
Williams Tower, the 215-foot landmark of the campus, is home to a unique instrument many have heard, but few have heard of.
Carol Jickling-Lens is the keeper of this tradition.
"I think people envision that I'm up here yanking on ropes, or something like that," said Carol Jickling-Lens, an adjunct-faculty member at the university.
The secret is revealed after you climb 95 spiral steps to the top of the tower.
A small circular room awaits, with a formidable instrument inside. Made of wood and metal, the machine resembles a piano but with wooden handles instead of keys, and wires stretched to the ceiling.
"When people ask me what I do, and I say, 'I play the carillon,' and they say, 'The what?' I'll say, 'You know that beautiful gold tower at DU along I-25?'" Jickling-Lens said, "Everybody knows this tower. They don't all know there are bells inside, and that there's someone at the top of the tower that plays those bells."
Bells that come alive with Jickling-Lens' fists and feet, pounding the 'batons,' which serve as keys to play the 65 bells atop the roof of the tower.
It's called a carillon, pronounced CARE-uh-lon.
"The bells don't move, the clappers do, so one person can play the entire instrument," Jickling-Lens said.
The largest of its bells weighs 65 tons. The clapper for that bell is a whopping 150 pounds.
The art of the carillon began in the Netherlands in Belgium to signal time. Soon, musical tunes were added before the hour's strikes to warn townspeople to pay attention to the number of strikes.
The University of Denver's grand carillon is one of just 180 in North America. It was specifically designed for the Williams Tower in 1999.
Jickling-Lens helped design the tower, but moved out of the country for several years while it was being constructed. When she and her husband decided to return to Colorado, the carillonneur position happened to be open, and she applied.
"The carillon community is a fairly small one. We all know each other," she said.
Jickling-Lens has been playing since she was a little girl, when she says she became "bewitched" by the bells of the carillon at her family's church.
Each note that rings from high atop the Williams Tower is truly a part of her.
"If you hear a song from here, it's either me or one of my students," Jickling-Lens said.
Each summer, the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music puts on a Carillon Summer Concert Series. The next one is Sunday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m., and the final concert of the season is Sunday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m.
For concert information visit DU's Calendar of Events.
Lens loves to take tours to the top of the bell-tower.
To request a tour, or to learn more about Jickling-Lens, visit her biography on DU's website.
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