There’s a starman waiting in the… church bell tower? Maybe not an alien, after all, but someone who is definitely a very big David Bowie fan took to one of the more famous sacred spires in Europe Wednesday to let loose with a little Ziggy, presumably in honor of the late rocker’s Jan. 8 birthday.
A passer-by heard the “bells” ringing out with the strains of “Life on Mars?” and posted video of the performance to Twitter. “Just a 17th century church playing Bowie,” wrote Peter Gibbs, along with a clip of the “Hunky Dory” tune resounding beautifully (albeit in a not immediately recognizable key) from the tower of the Zuiderkerk, a Protestant church in Amsterdam that dates back almost 400 years.
“It was a lovely, unexpected experience,” Gibbs added, in response to queries from curious and delighted tweeters. “It was a bit surreal.”
Had he lived, Bowie would have been turning 73 Wednesday. He died four years ago this Friday.
The sound was neither “bells,” exactly, nor the computer program that some cynics suspected. As Gibbs explained, it’s actually a carillon, “played by bashing a wooden keyboard connected to the clappers by strings!” The carillon was installed in 1656, about 40 years after the tower was completed.
If patrons of the arts find the tower familiar but can’t place it, it was the subject of a painting by Monet, among other things.
Lest anyone suppose an incredibly hep man or woman of the cloth was pulling the strings: The Zuiderkerk, Amsterdam’s first Protestant house of worship, no longer functions as a church. After falling into disrepair, it was renovated and transformed into a municipal information center in the 1980s.