October Carillon Recitals Announced

Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Jim Brinson

Mercersburg Academy will host recitals from the school’s Swoope Carillon Sundays in October; guest carillonneurs will include Jim Brinson (October 31), Julia Littleton (October 10), Jonathan Lehrer (October 17), and Frank Della Penna (October 24). The school’s carillon recital series hosts performances on most Sundays during the academic year; recitals begin at 3 p.m.

Recitals can be heard from the Prentiss-Zimmerman Quad on campus or the Irvine Memorial Chapel, which includes the Swoope Carillon and its Barker Tower. Due to COVID-19 protocols, recitals are currently closed to the public but can be heard from neighboring streets adjacent to campus around the Borough of Mercersburg. 

Brinson, who will give the recital on October 31, has been a member of Mercersburg’s music faculty since 2003, and also serves as the Academy’s organist, directs Magalia and Octet (the school’s male and female student a cappella ensembles) and the Chapel Choir, and works with the Chorale. He is the inaugural holder of the school’s Bess Simon Teaching Chair. Brinson is a member of the American Guild of Organists, the American Choral Directors Association, and an associate member of the GCNA. He is a graduate with distinction of both Union Theological Seminary’s School of Sacred Music and Rhodes College; he is experienced in choral arts, organ performance, and music history.

Littleton, of Washington, DC, has performed in Princeton, NJ; Valley Forge, PA; Middlebury and Northfield, VT.; and across the Chicago area. She has made frequent appearances at Mercersburg, starting in 2000 when she played a recital here for the GCNA’s Carillonneur Exam.

Julia Littleton

Littleton began her carillon studies during her college years at the University of Chicago, and later became one of the university’s assistant carillonneurs, giving weekly concerts on the Rockefeller Chapel carillon. She has taught piano and also performs as a soprano soloist in the Washington area, where she is a full-time journalist.

Lehrer is a laureate of many international competitions for carillon, most notably the Queen Fabiola International Carillon Competition, where he was awarded the SABAM prize for the best interpretation of Flemish carillon music. He is the winner of the 2010 International Carillon Competition of the Dutch Carillon Guild, and the highest ranked competitor in the International Alexius Julien Competition for baroque music.

Lehrer has performed numerous concert tours spanning Europe and North America, has been a frequent guest artist at the annual North American Carillon Congresses, and has performed the Cast in Bronze theatrical carillon show on the Mobile Millennium Carillon at Renaissance festivals across the US. In 2018, he served as Carillon Fellow at the carillon of Bok Tower Gardens, one of the premier carillon destinations worldwide. Lehrer studied at Yale University and graduated with great distinction from the Belgian Royal Carillon School “Jef Denyn.”

Della Penna is a graduate of West Chester University and The French Carillon School, the former resident carillonneur of the Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge, and creator/performing artist of the musical act Cast in Bronze, which features the carillon with other instruments. Della Penna has been a full-time entertainer for the past 30 years.

Frank Della Penna

He was the first American accepted to the French Carillon School, obtaining the degrees of “Carillonneur” and “Master-Carillonneur.” Della Penna has performed in the United States, Canada, and Europe, including at the World Carillon Congress. In 1991, America’s only traveling carillon was placed in his care. Della Penna is the CEO and a faculty member of the North American Carillon School.

As Cast in Bronze, Della Penna has performed for the Mass of Pope John Paul II in Central Park and on NBC’s Today, America’s Got Talent, and at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. He has produced 14 albums and written a musical about the carillon. 

Mercersburg’s Swoope Carillon is one of 163 traditional carillons in the U.S. and includes 50 bells. The carillon series is funded in part by a generous endowment established by Robert M. Kurtz Jr. ’52 in memory of his parents, Robert M. and Dorothy Betts Kurtz. 

Read more about the Swoope Carillon.

For more information on this story, please contact Lee Owen (owenl@mercersburg.edu) in Mercersburg’s Office of Strategic Marketing and Communications.