The Carillons In North America

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The carillon culture in North America officially starts in 1922. Before this time, there were already four instruments with a "carillon" status. Three of them could be played by mechanical devices and one was playable from a keyboard. Two automatic instruments cast by the French bell founder Bollée were installed at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana (1856, 23 bells) and at St. Joseph's Church in Buffalo, New York (1870, 43 bells). The other automatic instrument was cast by Paccard in 1900 and it was installed in St. Vincent's Seminary in Germantown in Philadelphia. The only manually played instrument (though the keyboard was primitive) was cast by Severinus Aerschodt in 1883 and was installed at the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia (25 bells).

The person who introduced the carillon to North America was William Gorham Rice (1856-1945). He had visited Europe, especially the Low Countries several times. He visited libraries to gather information about instruments. He also visited many of these instruments. He was interested in towers, bell sizes and weight, and keyboards. He was actively promoting the carillon in North America and tried to show that although this instrument was new to America, that it had a long history and tradition in Europe. He founded the Carillon League, assisted in the foundation of The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America, and supported the Mechelen Carillon School. In addition, he published several books and articles about carillon art. He also encouraged the purchase and installation of many carillons in North America.

Before World War II

The first modern carillons arrived in North America in 1922. They were usually two- octave instruments made in England. Taylor cas...

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...oremost performers to provide advice on appropriate performance techniques. The interest in creating music for the carillon is very big. The music is published by two publishers – ACME and GCNA.

There is a lot of influence from Europe as quite a few carillonneurs study the art in Europe. However, there is not yet a tradition for improvisation on carillon. There have been a few attempts to introduce the subject of improvisation at the Guild Congress, but these were unsuccessful.

A very characteristic aspect of the carillons in the US is the location of the carillon towers. Most carillons are not placed in city centers like in Europe, but in parks, gardens or on university campuses. During summer festivals, listeners attend the recitals in great numbers.


"Carillon – The Evolution of a Concert Instrument in North America" by K. and L. Keldermans.

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