In the Middle Ages, bells became part of Europe’s religious soundscape. Travelling foundry workers cast huge bells on site for the great cathedrals. By the 16th century, the carillon had become a symbol of prosperity and achievement in Flemish and Dutch towns. The sounds of the bells were part of a town’s daily order.
The Netherlands Centennial Carillon was a gift from British Columbia’s Dutch community to honour Canada’s 100th birthday in 1967. It is housed at the top of the tower, which stands 27 metres (90 feet) tall.
This carillon, the largest in Canada, has 62 bells. To play, our carillonneur has to climb the 75 steps of the spiral staircase and then a 10-step ladder to sit at the clavier. There, the carillonneur depresses the clavier’s keys and pedals to sound the bells and play a song.
The pitches of several bells commemorate specific events: D celebrates the founding of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1849, E the founding British Columbia as a colony in 1858, and F-sharp their union in 1866; F rings for the Confederation of Canada in 1867 and G-sharp for British Columbia’s 1871 entry into the Confederation; and G remembers Canadian soldiers who gave their lives for the liberation of the Netherlands, 1940-45.
You will hear the carillon playing automated seasonal themes throughout the Inner Harbor area on the hour between 10 am and 5 pm from October to March and between 10 am and 8 pm from April to September.
If you would like to talk to us about the carillon, have questions about the songs that are played or if you have a community event that you would like us to turn the carillon off for, please contact Kim Gough at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 250-387-6034
Meet the Carillonneur
Check out this video with Rosemary Laing as she describes how she got started playing the carillon.
Name that Tune!
On Sundays in throughout the summer, Rosemary Laing, the provincial carillonneur will play live recitals from 3:00 – 3:34 pm. Her song lists will be posted on the day, at the base of the carillon. The rest of time you will hear songs from the automated player.
Curious about the name of a song you heard on the carillon? If you are stumped, find the name of a tune that you recognize. Note the time it is played and then work out the other songs from there. The playlist changes seasonally so check back when you need to.
December 1 – January 2
Theme – Seasonal songs
10 am – 5 pm
- Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen
- Jingle Bells
- Ding Dong, Merrily on High
- For Unto us a Child is Born
- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
- Good Christian Men Rejoice
- Silent Night
- Am Weihnachtsbauma
- Hark, The Herald Angels Sing
- Heiligste Nacht
- I am Dreaming of a White Christmas
- Ave Maria
- Joy to the World
- Mary’s Little Boy Child
- O Come, All ye Faithful
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year