On Canada Day, we thought there was no piece of music more appropriate than that played by the carillon at Parliament Hill. On April 19, we rode the elevator up Parliament Hill to look at the carillon. To mark the day, here is what we saw.
At the end of each morning, Dr. Andrea McCrady navigates parliamentarians and tourists on Parliament Hill and takes the elevator midway up the Peace Tower. If her office had a window, she’d have the best view in Ottawa. Instead, the room is home to the most iconic (and hidden) instrument in Canada: the Peace Tower Carillon.
McCrady is the Dominion Carillonneur of Canada, a government position that keeps her busier than any other musician in the country. She gives over 200 recitals each year, and anyone within a few blocks of Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa will hear them.
The instrument is foreign-looking. It’s similar to an organ, but has more in common with a piano. From the keyboard room located among the 53 bells, you hear the mechanized action that sounds like an oversized typewriter. But from in front of Parliament Hill, you hear what Prime Minster Mackenzie King called, “the voice of the nation.”
After the automated Westminster Chime at exactly noon, McCrady begins her daily recital. She starts with O Canada, but the rest of the program is different every day. The bells may ring with the music of Mozart on one day, and Gordon Lightfoot the next. Daily programs can mark composer birthdays, national events or holidays.
CBC Music rode the elevator with McCrady to the top of the Peace Tower to discover just how a carillon works.
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CBC Music's classical summer listening list
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on Jun 30, 2012