The Singing Tower carillon concerts are at 1 & 3 p.m. daily with short selections played on the hour and half-hour. The current carillon schedule features live performances by carillonneur Geert D’hollander on Thursday – Sunday through May 12, 2013 and recordings from the Anton Brees Carillon Library collection for the remainder of the week. Carillon concerts can be heard throughout the Gardens and there is no additional ticket required.
What is a carillon?
A carillon is a musical instrument consisting of at least 23 cast bronze bells that are precisely tuned and arranged in chromatic progression so that music in any key can be played. Unlike other types of bells, carillon bells are fixed in a frame—the bells do not move. Instead, the clappers inside strike the bells to produce a considerable range of sounds up to five or six octaves. 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 Singing Tower carillon
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.
How is carillon music written and played?
Although carillon music looks like piano music, the treble clef is usually played by the hands and the bass clef by the feet. The carillon’s action is mechanical, which allows the performer to control the dynamics (loud and soft) by the force of the strike. There is no mechanism to dampen the sound after a bell is struck. Because carillon bells are rich in overtones, the consonant and dissonant combinations are sometimes reversed in carillon music to account for the presence of a minor-third overtone in each bell.
How are the bells tuned?
Carillon bells are tuned just after they are cast and before they are installed. A bell is placed on a lathe and metal is carefully removed from various heights of the inside wall of the bell. If tuned correctly at this time, the bells never have to be re-tuned.