On Wednesday, 15 November 2017, I was fortunate enough to be part of a small group (from the National Seniors Canberra North Branch) to be given a guided tour of the National Carillon. Our tour was conducted by Astrid Bowler, one of the Canberra Carillon players.
First, a bit of information about the National Carillon. It was a gift from the British government to the people of Australia to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Canberra, and was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 26 April 1970. The tower is 50 metres tall, and was designed by Cameron Chisholm Nicol, a firm based in Western Australia.
In 2004, the National Carillon underwent refurbishment which included the addition of two extra bells. The National Carillon now has 55 bells, which span four and a half octaves chromatically. The bells weigh between seven kilograms and six tonnes. We saw the largest bells, and Astrid explained how they were made.
As Canberrans know, the carillon is in regular use. When I worked in Civic in 1974, I could hear the carillon chiming every quarter-hour. Short tunes are played on the hour, and there are regular recitals.
For me, one of the highlights of the tour was seeing (and hearing) Astrid play the carillon. I’d not realised how complex it is, or how the instrument is played with fists rather than fingers. Such beauty in the sounds made by the bells.
Another highlight of the visit was the view. The middle three of my photographs above were taken from inside the tower.