Netherlands Centennial Carillon

In the Middle Ages, bells became part of Europe’s religious soundscape. Travelling foundry workers cast huge bells on site for the great cathedrals. By the 16th century, the carillon had become a symbol of prosperity and achievement in Flemish and Dutch towns. The sounds of the bells were part of a town’s daily order.

The Netherlands Centennial Carillon was a gift from British Columbia’s Dutch community to honour Canada’s 100th birthday in 1967. It is housed at the top of the tower, which stands 27 metres (90 feet) tall.

This carillon, the largest in Canada, has 62 bells. To play, a musician has to climb the 75 steps of the spiral staircase and then a 10-step ladder to sit at the clavier. There, the carilloneur depresses the clavier’s keys and pedals to sound the bells and play a song.

The pitches of several bells commemorate specific events: D celebrates the founding of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1849, E the founding British Columbia as a colony in 1858, and F-sharp their union in 1866; F rings for the Confederation of Canada in 1867 and G-sharp for British Columbia’s 1871 entry into the Confederation; and G remembers Canadian soldiers who gave their lives for the liberation of the Netherlands, 1940-45.

You will hear the carillon playing automated seasonal themes throughout the Inner Harbor area on the hour between 10 am and 5 pm from October to March and between 10 am and 8 pm from April to September.

If you would like to talk to us about the carillon, have questions about the songs that are played or if you have a community event that you would like us to turn the carillon off for, please contact Kim Gough at kgough@royalbcmuseum.bc.ca or at 250-387-6034

Meet the Carillonneur

Check out this video with Rosemary Laing as she describes how she got started playing the carillon.

Name that Tune!

Curious about the name of a song you heard on the carillon? If you are stumped, find the name of a tune that you recognize. Note the time it is played and then work out the other songs from there. The playlist changes seasonally so check back when you need to.

September, October, November Theme
Water songs and winter songs (+ a little dance music)
10 am – 5 pm

  • An der Schone Blaue Donau
  • So treiben wir den Winter Aus
  • Anchors Away
  • Schneeflockhen, weiss rockchen
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Und in dem Schneegebirge
  • Es Kommt ein Schiff Geladen
  • Clarinet Polka
  • Musette J.S. Bach
  • Ol’ Man River
  • Gavotte - Bach
  • Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head
  • Tango in D - Albeniz
  • Sailing
  • Winter ade Scheiden tut Weh
  • Schone Blaue Donau
  • The Emperor Waltz – Strauss
  • Schneewaltzer
  • Von den Bergen Rauscht das Wasser
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Rigaudon - Purcell
  • Wenn Alle Brunlein Fliessen
  • Gypsy Rondo
  • The Loreley

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