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“Some are immediately bewitched and some call it a bunch of noise. But I think some people are entranced the first time they hear it, this music wafting down from on high.”

Carol Jickling Lens

Of course with the name Carol, Carol Jickling Lens would grow up to play the carillon, the musical instrument atop the Ritchie Center. 

Call it fate, karma, whatever. The name Carol was destiny.

“I was a December baby and my grandmother sent a telegram (Jickling Lens still has it) suggesting Carol, as in Carol for Christmas bells,” says Jickling Lens, who joined the Lamont School of Music faculty in January.

As a 5-year-old, she heard the bells that would eventually define much of her working life.

“I remember walking up to the church my family attended, it had a carillon, and it was the best thing I ever heard,” she says. “So we pestered the lady at the church for lessons on it, but she said I had to be older and bigger.”

Finally, at age 13, she started lessons. She’s since earned two diplomas on the carillon from a school in the Netherlands.   

If you’re outside around noon, and within a few hundred yards of the Ritchie Center, you can hear Jickling Lens working. And you may either feel mesmerized or unimpressed.

“I’ve heard it all,” Jickling Lens says. “Some are immediately bewitched and some call it a bunch of noise. But I think some people are entranced the first time they hear it, this music wafting down from on high.”

The carillon clearly stands apart from most other instruments. DU’s features 65 bronze bells, the biggest of which weighs six tons. It has a piano-like keyboard with foot pedals musicians strike with their fists and feet.

Jickling Lens’ fascination with the carillon fails to fade.

“It touches me. It makes a gorgeous booming sound that to me is a part of everyday life along with the birds and the wind,” she says. “I hope I’m giving that kind of pleasure to other people.”

She teaches the instrument and hopes to be a kind of ambassador for it. She plans to give tours and demonstrate how the carillon is played.

“I want people to know about the carillon, learn about it,” she says. “At Yale [University], students fight to get a chance to take carillon lessons and play it there. I’d like to see that enthusiasm here.”

Outside of music, Jickling Lens enjoys travel. She’s done plenty. After having lived in England, Ghana, Libya, Michigan, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, (Her husband is in the oil business, hence all the homes.), her move to Denver in December was a homecoming.

She lived here from 1993–97. “When I started the job Joe Docksey [director of the Lamont School of Music] said, ‘welcome home,’ and that’s exactly what it feels like.”

“I’m delighted to have Carol as our new University carillonneur,” Docksey says. “I’ve known Carol since the days we were shopping for the carillon when it was just a concept.” 

She says she’s happy to be part of DU. “It’s an amazing university that strives for excellence in every part of the school,” she says. “My son got his degree in finance from here, and that’s served him well in his career.”  

Jickling Lens knows she’ll never gain rock-star status on the carillon.

“It’s a very anonymous art … some think it’s a machine playing,” she says. “One day I came down from the tower, and of course no one was around, but I made a little nod and said thanks just to tickle myself.”

Those interested in more information about the carillon can contact Jickling Lens at carol.lens@du.edu.

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