Visiting the moving sounds of Bok Tower Gardens

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TARPON SPRINGS (WTHR) — It stands on one of Florida's highest elevated spots and can be seen and heard for miles.

The Bok Tower Gardens is in Lake Wales just 37 miles from Disney World in Orlando but it may as well be a thousand miles away.

Since 1929, 23 million people have visited the Gardens and heard the beautiful, haunting and moving sounds of one of the worlds finest carillons, perched at the top of a 295-foot tower. It's 50 acres of gardens houses lush gardens, a 20 room mansion and a 250 neo-Gothic Singing Tower Carillon that has fascinated millions of visitors.

Benefactor Edward Bok's legacy of beauty and quiet is stamped all over this historic landmark. From the lush gardens of beautifully landscaped Florida plants and flowers, to serene ponds and orange groves to the beautiful hymns, songs and carols that come out of the tower...this is a place where, as Bok hoped 90 years ago, visitors can get in touch with nature, themselves and God.

Through determination and hard work Bok, an immigrant from the Netherlands, became a highly successful publisher, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, respected humanitarian and an advocate of world peace and the environment. Bok’s grandmother told him to “make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it,” which he did throughout his lifetime – and it still guides the mission to this day.

With dozens of landscapers and caretakers on staff, the gardens are a destination for many but the tower is the showpiece. On the seventh floor of the tower, Geert D'Hollander, generally accepted as the finest carillon player in the world, does his magic. He performs daily concerts for the crowds on hand. Some listen as they are strolling the gardens or having lunch, while others go to a designated listening spot where they can sit, listen and actually see Geert perform on a video screen. The Singing Tower carillon concerts are at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily with short selections played on the hour and half-hour. The carillon schedule features live concerts by mid-October through mid-May, Thursday to Sunday.

The Tower is so protected that behind it's ton and a half front door, with the story of Creation in 30 separate bronze panels, few have ever entered. The area is highly restricted, even to major donors.

WTHR's Chuck Lofton and videographer Steve Rhodes had rare access to the entire facility to document the visit of this wonderful Florida destination.

Because of its weight and size, the carillon is one of the largest of all instruments. A carillon is played from a keyboard on which the keys are depressed by the player’s closed hands and feet. The keys are connected to the clappers by vertical and horizontal wires. The carillon at Bok Tower Gardens has 60 bells ranging in weight from 16 pounds to nearly 12 tons. The instrument was designed and built in 1928 by John Taylor Bellfoundry, Ltd. of Loughborough, England which still makes bells today. There are four carillons in Florida, approximately 200 in North America and 600 throughout the world.

Geert gave Chuck a private concert and a lesson in how to play this massive instrument.

In the entire history of the Singing Tower, Geert is only the fourth carilloner and his dream is for his 13-year-old daughter to take over for him when he retires.

For a day of rest, relaxation, food and the enjoyment of world class music, you can't beat a stop at the beautiful Bok Tower Gardens.

Oh by the way, and this is important...Geert heads down to the base of the Tower to sign autographs, take pictures and answer questions. Take him up on it...he's the best in the world!

  • Location: 1151 Tower Boulevard Lake Wales, Florida 33853
  • Phone: 863-676-1408
  • Cost: $15.00 for adults, $5 for children 5 to 12 years old

For more information on Bok Tower Gardens, visit https://boktowergardens.org/