Monday, April 4, 2011

Tom Anderson and the Carillon

I went to Morris Beachy's funeral not long ago and ran into many old singer friends after the service. One was Tom Anderson who has played the carillon at the University of Texas for years. (See

In Where Love Once Lived, there is a scene on the campus between Karen Brian with the carillon in the background so I took the opportunity to mention this to Tom. This excerpt from the scene begins after Brian asks Karen if she wants to go the Tower to look at an exhibit:

She looked pleased, but looked at her watch. “I’d rather stay close to this area. They play the carillon today at ten to one.”

“Carillon? What’s that?”

She stopped and pointed toward the Tower, the building in the center of the campus that rose high above the other structures in the area.

“It’s new since we were here. There are fifty-six bells with enough notes to play complete songs.”

Brian pointed to a group of benches across campus. “Can we hear it from over there?”

“Sure. You’re supposed to be able to hear it from anywhere on the forty acres.”

“Good,” he said. “On my way here, I spotted a great place to eat under the trees there.”

“What about the Texas Union?” she asked. “We used to like the cafeteria there.”

“It’s gone,” he said. “There’s a food court with some pretty good choices if you like fast food, but we don’t need it.” He smiled as he held up a plastic grocery bag. “Ta-da! I stopped by Central Market and picked up lunch. I hope you don’t mind.”

She looked surprised and pleased. “Not at all. How nice of you. We can listen to the carillon while having a picnic.”

She’d not let him kiss her on the mouth when they met, but there was something in her face that made him think she was warming to him more each day. If she cared for him enough, maybe loved him, she’d forgive him for what he had to tell her today. They walked south from the Tower. When they reached the steps leading to the fountain, they turned right instead of going down the steps. He motioned toward a bench beneath two tall trees.

“How about here?”

She looked around and then smiled. “Déjà vu. We had lunch here once before, didn’t we?”

…after Brian makes a disclosure to Karen, the scene continues…

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you again by telling you about this.”

“But you did. What hurts the most is the way you set yourself out as the victim—poor little Brian. Tricked into sleeping with the pregnant girl so she’d have a father for her child.”

His whole body blushed. Why would she say that?

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to give you that impression. I’ve always said I’m the one to blame. I’m the one who made the mistake. Mistake doesn’t do it justice. It was a terrible thing I did. I’ve suffered for it my entire life.”

“Good.” She spat the word out, crossed her arms, and stared straight ahead again.

“I’m sorry if I sounded like the victim,” he said. “I didn’t mean to. I’m trying to adjust to this news about Amy in the only way I know how. I felt you needed to know about what happened with Judy, but I didn’t expect to hurt you again by telling you.”

“You did, though. Every time more information from our past comes out, I end up getting hurt.”

She sounded sad now instead of angry, and he could see her eyes were moist.

He wanted to put his arm around her, hold her close, and protect her from the pain he’d caused, but when he moved toward her, she moved away. If he couldn’t touch her, all he had were words to set the way for their future.

“I understand, but this is the end of the bad news from the past. There’s nothing more, I promise.”

She gazed toward him then turned away.

“Don’t count on it. I’ve tried to be open to letting something develop between us, but it’s too painful. I’m not strong enough. I think it must be too late.”

He looked at her, not sure what to say. This couldn’t be the end. Not now.

“I’ve told you everything.”

She shook her head. “There’ll be more surprises.” She stood, brushed the front of her slacks, and looked at him. “I’m sorry, I can’t handle this anymore. Let’s end it now before we hurt each other more.”

She was calm, no longer angry, and he could feel her leaving his life forever. He was about to give up on building a life with Karen when the person playing the carillons began to play. Karen sat down to listen as the sound filled the campus. The first piece Brian recognized as a stilted version of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma. Perhaps fifty-six notes weren’t enough to play it perfectly, but it was recognizable. The performance continued one song after another for ten minutes. The last piece was the university fight song, “Texas Fight.” They sat silently, apart from each other on the bench, until the concert ended.

The Tower chimed one o’clock. She was on her feet once again.

“I’m sorry. Perhaps we don’t have to end things yet.”

Brian stood and brushed his hair back. He felt relieved.

“Good. I know we can work this out.” He reached for her.

She moved away, out of his reach.

“No. Let me finish. While the music played, I remembered you promised to help me with Laura next week, and then a few days after that, there’s the get-together with the Combine. I’d still like to go to that. I don’t know why. Okay? That’ll be our last two times together. Believe me, it’ll be best that way.”

So that was it. He decided not to ask if she wanted to look at the exhibit in the Tower.


That was all he could manage. He didn’t believe her for a minute. His life couldn’t possibly be better without her in it.

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