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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It Tolls for Thee. By John von Daler

                                The Carilloneur knew that he was going to do it, but he did not know how.

                The billionaire's secretary had called him at five on Sunday morning to say that tickets for two would be waiting for him at the SAS ticket counter in Copenhagen. Destination, Miami and points beyond, those points being an island resort reachable by some plane hopping and a short trip in a motorboat. They, the billionaire and his women, the Carilloneur and a composer friend and their girl friends, would leave Tuesday morning and be back ten days later.
                The Carilloneur did not feel that this was an offer he could decline. How often do you get to lie on a beach for a week drinking Pina Coladas, playing in the surf, dining exquisitely, and making love in the scented, warm night air? He was tired of the Copenhagen winter drizzle, bicycles and women with opinions.
                But what of his job playing a concert three times a week in the tower of the beautiful, old church?
                He tried calling his inner circle of musician friends, but none of them would take on his obligations for those ten days. One day maybe, but not ten. Then the Carilloneur started calling friends of friends. That was when he reached Kalle.
                Kalle played the accordion and because he could play the accordion, he could also find his way around a piano. Their mutual friends said that he could play ordinary Danish songs pretty well, that he was not afraid of new challenges and that he was trustworthy. No one mentioned his politics. And why should they have? The Carilloneur did not ask about what sports he played either.
                So when the Carilloneur finally got a positive answer to his question, he closed the deal with Kalle, offering to pay him about two thirds of what he himself would earn in that same period. After all, nobody ever checked to see who was playing, the tower being inaccessible, dark and musty, so he expected to receive his wages as usual without any problem.
                Kalle would get the keys to the place. He could be shown around on Monday: first the practice room with its big, mock keyboard where you pummeled your way with your fists through one muted song after another and then the stairway up to the real bell keyboard at the base of the copper tower.
                Just play everything more slowly than you otherwise would, said the Carilloneur. Take it easy. Let the vibrations ring out across Copenhagen. Practice first on the mock keyboard and then you hammer out five songs on the real bell keyboard with your fists. The little old ladies love it!
                So the Carilloneur left on Tuesday with a girl he had met two weeks before on the subway. She liked beer, parties and him. Perfect!
                And on Wednesday Kalle played Danish songs and hymns for a half-an-hour in the tower of the old church. It had not occurred to anyone that Kalle's last day of duty would be May 1.
                Kalle had been brought up in a section of Copenhagen where carpenters and plumbers lived: good, solid, hard-working people who worked right and voted left. The first of May was their international day of celebration. Kalle found it suitable and even obligatory to play "Internationale" on the church bells that day.
                When The Carilloneur showed up tanned and blurry-eyed for his first concert at the church after his vacation, he was met at the side entrance to the tower by a functionary from the Department of Churches and a representative of his own union. They informed him that forty-seven people from the vast, flat city had complained that he had politicized what otherwise was a musical and religious tradition. Some older women in the parish had been seen holding their small hands over their ears in complete horror. You just do not play "Internationale" right after "Amazing Grace". He was hereby fired from his job.
                The Carilloneur said nothing about his trip to the West Indies. Nor did he mention Kalle. So even though his own politics leaned towards the right, from that day on he was known as the Leftist Carilloneur. He was even offered a job reviewing concerts for the Workers' Newspaper, but he declined. He had heard that they started each day by singing "Internationale". Life is so unjust.

If you enjoyed my little story, you might also enjoy my book. You can have a look at it or buy it HERE.

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