When most people think of iconic buildings in Canberra they often think of Parliament House, the War Memorial however, Canberra is home to other iconic buildings. The Carillon is one other building Every Wednesdays and Sundays from 12:30 to 1:20 pm music can be heard from the National Carillon situated on Aspen Island, Lake Burley Griffin.
The carillon was a gift from the British government to the people of Australia to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the national capital, Canberra. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the National Carillon on 26 April 1970. The tower, standing 50 metres (160 ft) tall, was designed by Cameron Chisholm Nicol, a firm based in Western Australia. The concept was developed by Don Ho, one of the firm’s architects, in 1968. In 2004, the carillon underwent refurbishment, including renovations of interior function facilities and the addition of two extra bells.
Carillons have a minimum of 23 bells. With 55 bronze bells the National Carillon is large by world standards. The pitch of the bells ranges chromatically through four and one half octaves. The bells each weigh between seven kilograms and six tonnes. Cast in England by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough, they are fine examples of the art of bell founding.
With the tower rising to a height of 50 metres, this allows the music of the bells to drift across Lake Burley Griffin and through Kings and Commonwealth Parks. The tower is lit at night, providing a magnificent landmark in the national capital. Carillonists play the suspended stationary bells from a keyboard of wooden batons and pedals, called a clavier. A system of individual cables and wire linkages draws soft iron clappers on to the bells as each wooden baton or pedal is struck by the carillonist. A separate mechanical system of operation allows the quarter hour striking of the Westminster chimes.
The National Carillon is played on a regular basis during the year by both local and visiting carillonists. It is often used to celebrate national days and is played in conjunction with other events such as Australia Day. All styles of music are represented, from compositions specially written for the Carillon to popular song arrangements and improvisation. The best place to listen to the National Carillon is one where you have an unobstructed view of the tower and usually within a radius of one hundred metres. The best part about it. It’s free.