Ring in the season with your family by gathering in front of Royal BC Musuem under the Netherlands Centennial Carillon—also known as the bell tower—on December 1 from 4:30-5:15pm for a special musical event. “Carol-Along with the Carillon,” features choirs and members of the community singing holiday classics, with live accompaniment, followed by hot chocolate and cookies.

The Netherlands Centennial Carillon adds a distinct presence to Victoria’s Inner Harbour, striking each hour with its warm, loud chimes. The carillon was a gift to B.C. from the Dutch community to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday, and also to honour Canada’s role in the liberation of Holland in World War II. There is a cornerstone at the base of the tower with an inscription about this memorial event. The carillon has regular recitals at civic events and national holidays as well as summer concerts. With its 62-bells, the Carillon is played by striking a large keyboard, which is similar to an organ. The person who plays the bells is called a carillonneur. The Provincial Carillonneur is Rosemary Laing. Carillonneurs play the bells by striking the keys with their fists. To play the larger bells, they must strike the keys with their feet. The bells do not actually swing. Instead, a clapper strikes each bell with the force that the carillonneur uses to strike the key. The keyboard is constructed of dowelled levers, or batons, arranged in two long rows, like a piano’s white and black keys. Each baton is connected to a wire that activates a hammer that rings one bell in the tower.

There are eleven carillons in Canada, including Soldier’s Tower in Toronto and Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. The Peace Tower Carillon in Ottawa is the best known and most frequently played. It was inaugurated in 1927 on the 60th anniversary of Confederation. If you would like to read more about carillons, a great book to read with your kids before you attend the “Carol-along with the Carillon” is Eyewitness: Music by Neil Ardley. With superb real-life photographs of musical instruments, the book is divided into chapters on each instrument family. The carillon is included in the percussion section, with descriptions of chimes, bells, clangers, and gongs.

The Carillon carol concert is an excellent way to promote community spirit and celebrate the festive season. Be sure to arrive early for a spot under the carillon where you’ll hear the peals of notes and holiday tunes echoing throughout the Inner Harbour. Jerri Carson