French professor to play holiday concert at bell tower

OXFORD — Miami University faculty and students have heard hundreds of songs chime out from Pulley Tower, but few are aware of the man behind the music.

Randy Runyon, a professor of French at Miami, has been the university’s official carillonneur since 2002. A carillon is a set of real bells, which, when played live, are struck from the inside of the bell by a striker controlled by a keyboard. The keyboard looks very similar to a pipe organ, with two keyboards.  

Runyon is responsible for the 150 some songs played on rotation during live concerts or as a recording of him.

He will play a holiday music concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5.

Because the carillon is so similar to the pipe organ, which Runyon plays, he said learning to play the carillon was simple.

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“I didn’t have to teach myself because it’s just like playing the organ,” Runyon said.

When the bells are not being played live, the songs being played are still from Runyon. The songs that are played automatically on the carillon throughout the year were recorded by Runyon in 2002.

“When I first got the job, I went down to the manufacturer in Cincinnati and I spent a week or so recording on a keyboard the songs that are played,” Runyon said.

These songs are played on a rotation. When these songs are played, the bells are actually being struck, but the difference is that a recording, not a live person, is controlling which bells ring.

“When it plays now it’s real bells being hit by pieces or metal, so it’s not electronic in that sense,” said Runyon. “The electronic part is the part that remembers.”

The money for the carillon was given to Miami by William Pulley in memory of his father.

After being built, Rod Nimtz, current director of the Voice of America Learning Center, was the first carillonneur at Miami, but passed on the torch to Runyon after his time was consumed by his new job.

Runyon has taught at the university since 1977, and he became University Carillonneur in 2002. 

Runyon has also been an organist and music director at Zion Lutheran Church in Hamilton since 2001. 

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