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Carillon Olympiapark Muenchen.jpg
The former carillon in Munich's Olympiapark
Percussion instrument
Classification Percussion
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 111.242.2
(Sets of bells or chimes)
A traveling carillon at the Colorado Renaissance Festival in June 2008 Carillon small portable.jpg
A traveling carillon at the Colorado Renaissance Festival in June 2008

A carillon ( US: /ˈkærəlɒn/ or UK: /kəˈrɪljən/ ; [1] French:  [kaʁijɔ̃] ) is a musical instrument that is typically housed in the bell tower (belfry) of a church or municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to produce a melody, or sounded together to play a chord. A traditional manual carillon is played by striking a keyboard – the stick-like keys of which are called batons – with the fists, and by pressing the keys of a pedal keyboard with the feet. The keys mechanically activate levers and wires that connect to metal clappers that strike the inside of the bells, allowing the performer on the bells, or carillonneur/carillonist to vary the intensity of the note according to the force applied to the key.

American English Set of dialects of the English language spoken in the United States

American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. It is considered one of the most influential dialects of English globally, including on other varieties of English.

British English is the standard dialect of English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken, so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".

Musical instrument History and classification

A musical instrument is an instrument created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates to the beginnings of human culture. Early musical instruments may have been used for ritual, such as a trumpet to signal success on the hunt, or a drum in a religious ceremony. Cultures eventually developed composition and performance of melodies for entertainment. Musical instruments evolved in step with changing applications.


Although unusual, real carillons have occasionally been fitted to theatre organs (instead of the metal bars or chimes more often used in simulation), such as the Christie organ installed at the Regal Cinema, Marble Arch, in London. [2] A carillon-like instrument with fewer than 23 bells is called a chime.

William Hill & Son & Norman & Beard Limited were a major pipe organ manufacturer originally based in Norfolk.

Chime (bell instrument) musical instrument

A carillon-like instrument with fewer than 23 bells is called a chime.

The carillon is the second heaviest of all extant musical instruments, [3] only ranking behind the largest pipe organs. The heaviest carillon in the world (at Riverside Church in New York City) weighs over 100 short tons (91 tonnes), [4] whereas the Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia weighs 287 short tons (260 tonnes).

Riverside Church Church in New York City, United States of America

Riverside Church is a Christian church in Morningside Heights, Upper Manhattan, New York City. It opened its doors on October 5, 1930. It is situated at 120th Street and 490 Riverside Drive, near the Columbia University Morningside Heights Campus, across the street from, and one block south of, President Grant's Tomb. Although interdenominational, it is also associated with the American Baptist Churches USA and the United Church of Christ. It is famous for its large size and elaborate Neo-Gothic architecture as well as its history of social justice. It was described by The New York Times in 2008 as "a stronghold of activism and political debate throughout its 75-year history ... influential on the nation's religious and political landscapes." It has been a focal point of global and national activism since its inception.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Wanamaker Organ

The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ, in Philadelphia, is the largest fully functioning pipe organ in the world. The Wanamaker Organ is located within a spacious 7-story Grand Court at Macy's Center City and played twice a day Monday through Saturday. The organ is featured at several special concerts held throughout the year, including events featuring the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ Festival Chorus and Brass Ensemble.

The word "carillon" is said to originate from the French quadrillon, meaning four bells. In German, a carillon is also called a Glockenspiel; while the percussion instrument called a "glockenspiel" by English speakers is often called a carillon in French.

Percussion instrument Type of musical instrument that produces a sound by being hit

A percussion instrument is a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scraped by a beater ; struck, scraped or rubbed by hand; or struck against another similar instrument. The percussion family is believed to include the oldest musical instruments, following the human voice.

Glockenspiel percussion instrument composed of a set of tuned keys arranged in the fashion of the keyboard of a piano

A glockenspiel is a percussion instrument composed of a set of tuned keys arranged in the fashion of the keyboard of a piano. In this way, it is similar to the xylophone; however, the xylophone's bars are made of wood, while the glockenspiel's are metal plates or tubes, thus making it a metallophone. The glockenspiel, moreover, is usually smaller and higher in pitch.


The Hemony carillon of the Zuiderkerk in Amsterdam was installed in 1656 1294-Amsterdam.jpg
The Hemony carillon of the Zuiderkerk in Amsterdam was installed in 1656

In medieval times, swinging bells were first used as a way of notifying people of imminent church services, and for such as fires, storms, wars and other secular events.

However, the use of bells to play melodic musical compositions originated in the 16th century in the Low Countries. The first carillon was in Flanders, where a "fool" performed music on the bells of Oudenaarde Town Hall in 1510 by using a baton keyboard.

Low Countries historical coastal landscape in north western Europe

The Low Countries, the Low Lands, or historically also the Netherlands, is a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe, forming the lower basin of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers, divided in the Middle Ages into numerous semi-independent principalities that consolidated in the countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, as well as today's French Flanders.

Flanders Community and region of Belgium

Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.

Oudenaarde Town Hall

The Town Hall of Oudenaarde, Belgium was built by architect Hendrik van Pede in 1526–1537 to replace the medieval Schepenhuis that occupied the same site. Another older structure, the 14th-century Cloth Hall, was retained and now forms a sort of extension at the back of the Town Hall proper.

Major figures in the evolution of the modern carillon were Pieter and François Hemony working in the 17th century. They are credited as being the greatest carillon bell founders in the history of the Low Countries. They developed the carillon, in collaboration with Jacob van Eyck, into a full-fledged musical instrument by casting the first tuned carillon in 1644, which was installed in Zutphen's Wijnhuistoren tower.

Pieter and François Hemony sibling duo

François Hemony and his brother Pieter, Pierre, or Peter Hemony (1619-1680) were the greatest carillon bell founders in the history of the Low Countries. They developed the carillon, in collaboration with Jacob van Eyck, into a full-fledged musical instrument by casting the first tuned carillon in 1644.

Jacob van Eyck Dutch composer

Jonkheer Jacob van Eyck was a Dutch nobleman and musician. He was one of the best-known musicians in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century, working as a carillon player, organist, recorder virtuoso, and composer.

Zutphen City and municipality in Gelderland, Netherlands

Zutphen is a city and municipality located in the province of Gelderland, Netherlands. It lies some 30 km northeast of Arnhem, on the eastern bank of the river IJssel at the point where it is joined by the Berkel. First mentioned in the 11th century, the place-name appears to mean "south fen". In 2005, the municipality of Zutphen was merged with the municipality of Warnsveld, retaining its name. In 2017, the municipality had a population of 47,423.

Musical characteristics

Carillon bells, Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg Carillon of PeterAndPaulCathedral 1.JPG
Carillon bells, Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg
Carillonneur playing the 56-bell carillon at the Plummer Building, Rochester, Minnesota 5921f6b93aa13.image.jpg
Carillonneur playing the 56-bell carillon at the Plummer Building, Rochester, Minnesota
Carillonneur demonstrating using the sides of the hands to strike the clavier (keyboard). BIG 117025309040611.jpg
Carillonneur demonstrating using the sides of the hands to strike the clavier (keyboard).

The World Carillon Federation defines a carillon as "A musical instrument composed of tuned bronze bells which are played from a baton keyboard. Only those carillons having at least 23 bells may be taken into consideration." [5]

The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA) defines a carillon as "a musical instrument consisting of at least two octaves of carillon bells arranged in chromatic series and played from a keyboard permitting control of expression through variation of touch. A carillon bell is a cast bronze cup-shaped bell whose partial tones are in such harmonious relationship to each other as to permit many such bells to be sounded together in varied chords with harmonious and concordant effect." The GCNA defines a "traditional carillon" as one played from a carillon mechanical (not electrified) baton keyboard, [6] and a "non-traditional carillon" as a musical instrument with bells, but played by automated mechanical or electro-mechanical means, or from an electrical or electronic keyboard. [7]

Since each note is produced by an individual bell, a carillon's musical range is determined by the number of bells it has. Different names are assigned to instruments based on the number of bells they comprise:

The Riverside Carillon in New York City has the largest tuned carillon bell in the world, which sounds C2 (two octaves below middle C).

Travelling or mobile carillons are not placed in a tower, but can be transported. Some of them can even be played indoors—in a concert hall or church—like the mobile carillon of Frank Steijns. [8]

Poorly tuned bells often give an "out of tune" impression and also can be out of tune with themselves. This is due to the unusual harmonic characteristics of foundry bells, which have strong overtones above and below the fundamental frequency. [9]

There is no standard pitch range for the carillon. In general, a concert carillon will have a minimum of 48 bells. The range of any given instrument usually depends on funds available for the fabrication and installation of the instrument: more money allows more bells to be cast, especially the larger, more costly ones. Older carillons can be transposing instruments, generally transposing upward. Most modern instruments sound at concert pitch. A carillon clavier has both a manual and a pedal keyboard.

Carillon music

Carillon music is typically written on two staves. Notes written in the bass clef are generally played by the feet. Notes written in the treble clef are played with the hands. Pedals range from the lowest note (the bourdon) and may continue up to two and half octaves. In the North American Standard keyboard, all notes can be played on the manual.

Because of the acoustic peculiarities of a carillon bell (the prominence of the minor third, and the lack of damping of sound), music written for other instruments needs to be arranged specifically for the carillon.

The combination of carillon and other instruments, while possible, is generally not a happy marriage. The carillon is generally far too loud to perform with most other concert instruments. The great exceptions to this are some late twentieth- and early twenty-first century compositions involving electronic media and carillon. In these compositions, sound amplification is able to match the extreme dynamic range of the carillon and, in the case of sensitive composers, even the most delicate effects are possible. Brass music is often heard together with a (traveling) carillon


The carillonneur or carillonist is the title of the musician who plays the carillon. The carillonneur usually sits in a cabin beneath the bells and plays with the fifth (little) finger pressed down with a loosely closed fist, on a series of baton-like keys arranged in the same pattern as a piano keyboard. The batons are almost never played with the fingers as one does a piano, though this is sometimes used as a special carillon playing technique. The keys activate levers and wires that connect directly to the bells' clappers; thus, as with a piano, the carillonneur can vary the intensity of the note according to the force applied to the key. In addition to the manual keys, the heavier bells are also played with a pedal keyboard. These notes can either be played with the hands or the feet.

Carillon schools

The world's first international carillon school, the Royal Carillon School "Jef Denyn", is in Mechelen, Belgium, where the study of campanology originated. Students from all over the world come to study campanology here. Other carillon schools include the Netherlands Carillon School [10] in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

In North America, one can study the carillon at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (which is home to two of only twenty-three grand carillons in the world), the University of Florida, the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music, Missouri State University, and Berea College in Kentucky, all of which offer complete courses of study. One can also take private lessons at many carillon locations, and there are universities that offer limited credit for carillon performance, such as Clemson University, the University of Kansas, Iowa State University, Grand Valley State University, Marquette University and the University of Rochester.

The George Cadbury Carillon School was opened in 2006 and is the only carillon school in the United Kingdom. [11]

Another international carillon school, the Scandinavian Carillon School [12] in Løgumkloster, Denmark, was established in 1979. It serves mainly Scandinavians, but cooperates with other carillon schools at the university level with student exchange.

A number of universities and undergraduate institutions make use of carillons as part of their tradition. Princeton University houses a carillon of 67 bells which can be heard every Sunday afternoon with performances from Lisa Lonie. [13] [14] Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut is home to the world's only completely student-led guild of carillonneurs. Members of this group are selected by audition, following an intensive five-week training program for potential recruits. The Yale Memorial Carillon can be heard from the university's iconic Harkness Tower twice a day. [15] Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, completed its carillon of 48 bells in 2009, ninety years after the first bells were hung in 1919. [16] Middlebury College in Vermont has a 48-bell carillon located in the steeple of the college's Mead Memorial Chapel. [17] The University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada, has a 51 bell carillon [18] located at Soldiers' Tower, and is the only Canadian university with a functioning carillon. [19]

Composers for carillon

Notable carillonneurs

Instruments by country

Number of traditional carillons by country, with each country linked to its country-specific list of carillons:

CountryNumber of carillons
Netherlands 182[ citation needed ]
United States 166 [22]
Belgium 89[ citation needed ]
Germany 45[ citation needed ]
France 27[ citation needed ]
Denmark 23[ citation needed ]
United Kingdom 19[ citation needed ]
Norway 12 [23]
Canada 11 [24]
Cechia 6 [25]
Lithuania 4[ citation needed ]
Russia 2 [26]
Israel 1
Australia 3


Anthem of Ukraine. Carillon of St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery. Kiev, Ukraine

See also

Related Research Articles

Sather Tower architectural structure

Sather Tower is a bell tower, with clocks on its four faces, on the University of California, Berkeley campus, more commonly known as The Campanile for its resemblance to the Campanile di San Marco in Venice. It is the university's most recognizable symbol. Given by Jane K. Sather in memory of her husband, banker Peder Sather, it is the third-tallest bell-and-clock-tower in the world. Its current 61-bell carillon, built around a nucleus of 12 bells also given by Jane Sather, can be heard for many miles and supports an extensive program of education in campanology.

Campanology is the study of bells. It encompasses the technology of bells – how they are cast, tuned, rung, and sounded – as well as the history, methods, and traditions of bell-ringing as an art.

Yale Memorial Carillon

The Yale Memorial Carillon is a carillon of 54 bells in Harkness Tower at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Brigham Young University Centennial Carillon Tower

The BYU Centennial Carillon is a carillon on the campus of Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. The bell tower was erected in 1975 to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the school's founding. Built in a simple, modern style designed by architect Fred L. Markham, it stands 97 feet tall and contains 52 bells. The bells range in size from 25 lbs to 4,730 lbs. The carillon tolls a tune based on the hymn "Come, Come, Ye Saints," followed by the hour, and tolls a chime on the half-hour. The hour and half-hour strikes are controlled by an automated system. Carillonneurs may also play the instrument by means of a keyboard located directly below the belfry, in a small room reached by a spiral staircase that ascends through the center of the tower.

Rainbow Tower

The Rainbow Tower is a 50.3 metres (165 ft) tower located at the Rainbow Plaza Canada–US border station of the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Construction on the tower was completed in 1947. The tower, part of the Canadian plaza of the bridge, was designed by Canadian architect William Lyon Somerville.

Royal Carillon School "Jef Denyn" carillon school in Mechelen

The Royal Carillon School "Jef Denyn" in Mechelen, Belgium, is the first and largest carillon school in the world. The Belgian government defines it as an "International Higher Institute for the Carillon Arts under the High Protection of Her Majesty Queen Fabiola." The school has trained many of the foremost carillonneurs of the twentieth century and houses a rich archive and library.

Carillon in Berlin-Tiergarten

The Carillon in Berlin-Tiergarten is located in a freestanding 42m-tall tower next to the House of World Cultures, near the Chancellery in the northeastern part of Berlin's central Tiergarten park. It is a large, manually played concert instrument, comprising 68 bells weighing a total of 48 metric tonnes connected to a keyboard spanning 5½ fully chromatic octaves; the largest bell weighs 7.8 tonnes. The carillonneur sits in a playing cabin in the middle of the bells and plays with his fists and feet on a baton-and-pedal keyboard. The purely mechanical action makes it possible to play all dynamic gradations, from very soft to very loud.

Loughborough Carillon grade II listed military museum in Loughborough, United kingdom

Loughborough Carillon is a carillon and war memorial in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England. It is in Queen's Park, and is a well-known landmark, visible from several miles away. It is 152 feet high.

Campanile (Iowa State University)

The Iowa State University Campanile is located on Iowa State's central campus, and is home to the Stanton Memorial Carillon. The campanile is widely seen as one of the major symbols of Iowa State University. It is featured prominently on the university's official ring and the university's mace, and is also the subject of the university's alma mater.

Century Tower (University of Florida)

The Century Tower is a 157-foot-tall (48 m) carillon tower in the center of the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida.

Émilien Allard was a Canadian carillonneur, pianist, clarinetist, and composer. He composed more than 50 works for carillon and made more than 700 transcriptions of carillon music; many of which are still performed in Europe and North America. In 1958, he won the International Carillonneurs' Prize at the Brussels World's Fair. For RCA Victor he released the LP album Carols at the Carillon of Saint Joseph's Oratory for which he wrote the arrangements. His Marche du maréchal and his Marche H.I.C. were recorded by Howard Cable and his Notule No. 1 and Profil canadien no 2. were included on Gordon Slater's LP Bells and Brass. Many of his original manuscripts and papers are a part of the collection at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Cook Carillon Tower

The Cook Carillon Tower is a 10-story-tall carillon-clock tower located in the center of the Grand Valley State University-Allendale campus in Allendale, Michigan. The tower and carillon were built in 1994 with help from generous donations by Peter C. and Pat Cook for which it is named. The tower is considered to be a major icon of both the university and its campus and creates a notable central focal point on the Allendale campus.

The Anton Brees Carillon Library, located within the Singing Tower at Bok Tower Gardens, is home to various collections that document the history and development of the Singing Tower and Gardens, the historic Pinewood Estate, and the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America. It also contains many sources on carillon art in general.

John Courter was an American composer, organist, and carillonneur who served as a professor of music at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, from 1971 until his death on June 21, 2010. A native of Lansing, Michigan, Courter earned a bachelor's degree in choral music education from Michigan State University in 1962 and a Master's of Music degree in organ in 1966 from the University of Michigan. He also studied at the North German Organ Academy and held diplomas from the Netherlands Carillon School.

Waag (Alkmaar)

The Waag building is a National monument (Rijksmonument) listed building on the Waagplein in Alkmaar in the Netherlands. On this square Waagplein from April till the second week of September, the famous cheese market is held. The Dutch Cheese Museum and the tourist information Office (VVV) are also in the building. In the tower is a famous carillon weekly played by a carilloneur and also automatically by a drum chiming the quarters of the hour. There is also the famous automatic horse with knights play in the tower with an automatic trumpetplayer.

Ronald Barnes, was a carillon performer, teacher, composer, and arranger throughout the 20th century. He was a major force in establishing an American approach to carillon performance, composing and arranging.

Jo Haazen is a Flemish musician and carillonneur.

Julianne Vanden Wyngaard is a professional carillonist residing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who currently serves as president of The Guild of Carilloners in North America (GCNA). In a predominantly male and white field, Vanden Wyngaard has distinguished herself through musical and professional accolades.


  1. definition of carillon in the Oxford Learner's Dictionaries
  2. "Picture Gallery – Regal, Marble Arch (15)". Retrieved 27 October 2015
  3. "Sunday Carillon Concerts at Peter and Paul Fortress". Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  4. "The Riverside Church: The Carillon". New York, NY: The Riverside Church in the City of New York. Archived from the original on 2016-06-30. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  5. Guild of Carillonneurs in North America.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2013-09-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. Frank Steijns .
  9. "The Sound of Bells - Overview of tuning".
  10. Utrecht School of the Arts, Faculty of Music, archived from the original on 2012-10-18
  11. Carillon Summer series, IA State, 2008.
  12. KMS, DK: Locus Dei, archived from the original on 2007-07-31.
  13. "About the Carillon" . Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  14. "Meet the Carillonneur" . Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  15. Yale Guild of Carillonneurs, USA: Yale University.
  16. Long-awaited Bell to Complete Smith College Carillon, Smith College, 16 March 2009.
  17. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2012-03-26.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  18. The Soldier's Tower, Canada: University of Toronto.
  19. Carillon, Canada: Historica Canada.
  20. De Zingende Toren ‹See Tfd› (in Dutch)
  21. Cultuurcampus Vleuterweide ‹See Tfd› (in Dutch)
  22. "FAQ : Hopeman Memorial Carillon : University of Rochester".
  24. "Carillon - The Canadian Encyclopedia".
  27. "Carillon", Chapel, US: Duke.
  28. "ROUEN : restauration du Carillon de la Cathédrale Notre-Dame -".
  29. "Restaurées à Annecy, les cloches de la cathédrale seront de retour à Rouen, après Pâques".
  30. Tlatelolco, Vivir En (2012-03-26). "Vivir en Tlatelolco: El carrillón de Tlatelolco". Vivir en Tlatelolco. Retrieved 2019-05-06.

Further reading