Monday, July 22, 2024

Here’s the whole story behind the bell tower at Royal BC Museum


At the corner of Government and Belleville, just outside of the Royal BC Museum, stands one of the most prominent and striking fixtures of downtown Victoria – and yet somehow possibly one of the most overlooked.

Those within a few block radius hear its warm, loud ring every hour. It is the bell-tower, or as it’s properly known, the Netherlands Centennial Carillon.

For those who may be unaware, a carillon is defined as such:

…a musical instrument that is typically housed in the bell tower of a church or municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to produce a melody, or sounded together to play a chord.”

Of course our Carillon isn’t just another carillon – it has its own story:

It was a gift from Holland to Canada back in 1967, to celebrate our country’s 100th birthday, and as thanks for helping liberate the country during the Second World War.

In fact, royalty was on hand when Queen Juliana of the Netherlands officially laid the cornerstone on May 23rd (an initial presentation and ringing in ceremony took place on March 9th, 1967).

The 27.5 metres (90-foot) tower which houses the carillon however was built by the British Columbia Department of Public Works, and paid for by the provincial government.

Some fun facts that you may not know about the carillon:

In 1971 it went from 49 to 62 bells (which it has now) and one of the bells is dedicated to Canadian soldiers who gave their lives for the Netherlands during the Second World War.

It also plays in “d1, connected to c on the keyboard” pitch, and has it’s very own Carillonneur (her name is Rosemary Laing).

To show your appreciation for this historical fixture, you can join in on December 9th when the Museum hosts their annual ‘Carol-Along with the Carillon’.

The event is said to bring together “choirs and members of the community” who, appropriately, will be singing holiday classics, accompanied live by the carillon.

There is also a promise of hot chocolate and cookies so you can be sure we’ll be around to *cough* celebrate!

Carol Along with the Carillon

  • When: Sunday, December 9th, 4:30 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.
  • Where: Royal BC Museum, 675 Belleville St
  • Admission: Free!

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