The carillon is made up of 47 bells ranging from 6kg – 4,211kg in weight. They were of course cast at the John Taylor Bell Foundry that we visited on Wednesday.
Each bell was given as a gift to the memorial by local people, businesses, schools, and groups. Marked out on the bell as we saw being done yesterday at the foundry.
The Carillon is played through the summer on Thursday and Sunday afternoon, so we were lucky enough to hear it in action yesterday. Caroline Sharpe is the resident Carilloneur and it was a joy to watch her in action. It is quite a physical task, pushing down the rods and pedals to ring the bells. They are struck by a hammer, not swung as church bells are.
To be called a carillon a set of bells has to have at least 2 octaves, enabling proper tunes to be played and this is one of the largest in the UK. There are 15 surviving, working carillons, some in church towers, some in schools, but not many are played as regularly as this one.
As Caroline played at the ‘keyboard’, we could hear the bells above us playing the tune, but we had to listen carefully over the clanking sounds of the mechanism as she worked. Ian asked if she would play Happy Birthday as it was my special day, and she quickly agreed then asked for any other request, and played Amazing Grace and Londonderry Air for us too. Which was really lovely.
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After watching her at the ‘keyboard’ we went up to the bell loft. It was very very LOUD! In fact it was hard to hear the tune, our ears (or our brains) couldn’t cope with sorting out the notes.
Outside in the park again we sat and listened to the rest of the recital, the chiming bells filling the warm air with their unique sound.