Carillon Info (EN)

What is a carillon?

A carillon is a musical instrument composed of 23 or more cast bronze bells, tuned similarly, arranged in chromatic series, and played from a keyboard permitting control of expression through variation of touch.

There are approximately 200 carillons in North America. Just over 100 of them are classified as “grand carillons,” because they have at least 47 bells (four octaves with the bass C-sharp and E-flat omitted).

Dallas, Texas, is home to three true carillons: Highland Park United Methodist Church (48 bells), The Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe (49 bells), and St. Mark’s School of Texas (25 bells).

How does a carillon work?

Only the clappers inside the bells move. The bells are bolted rigidly to a steel or wooden frame. Once struck, a bell rings until its sound dies away naturally.

How is the carillon played?

The performer (carillonneur) plays the instrument from a keyboard (clavier) located immediately below the belfry. The carillonneur strikes the keys with closed hands on baton-like keys and with both feet on the pedal keyboard. The keys are connected to the clappers through a series of direct mechanical linkages. The volume (dynamics) is controlled by the force with which the carillonneur strikes the key, which sends the clapper toward the inside edge of the bell.

Where do you listen?

A carillon is best heard from outside. There is no “perfect” listening location-the sound changes with temperature, humidity, wind and whoever happens to be playing. You are encouraged to walk around and enjoy the unique experience of hearing the sound literally move around you.

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