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WÖR - About Towers 

WÖR - About Towers 
Arc Music EUCD2935  

Who but the English would be crazy enough to build towers hundreds of feet high, fill them with huge iron bells, and then decide to play music on this arrangement? Well, the Belgians of course! England and Belgium are pretty much the only areas to have a thing about towers with bells in. Yes, other countries have their clock towers and their clockwork music, but that's all about the clocks: they leave it to the English and the Belgians to play tunes by hand, and to be fair the Belgians are the only ones to have taken this seriously since around 500 years ago. The carillons of Flanders and southern Belgium are still active, and their music is a treasure trove from several centuries.

A rather longwinded introduction to five Flemish musicians who have reinvigorated this music: WÖR's third album extends their passion for pre-Napoleonic dance music to the chiming melodies of bell towers across their home country. Most of the pieces here come from carillon manuscripts, and five tracks feature modern carillon playing by Liesbeth Janssens in a tower at Lommel. The rest are WÖR's usual heady combination of bagpipes, saxophone, accordion, fiddle, piano, bass and fretted strings. There are some familiar pieces here - the gentle Berlo has spread across France and Scandinavia, while Bach's basis for BWV ReWÖRked is known worldwide. Most are likely to be new to you though - they were to me - from the rousing Beyaert to the drowsy Cecilia. The sleevenotes explain the origins of each piece, but they don't do justice to the research, the imagination, and the downright brilliance of these musicians. The virtuosity of Dupont, the creativity of Climate March, and the beauty of Fiocco have to be heard to be fully appreciated. If you only listen to one album of Belgian carillon music this year, make sure it's About Towers.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine