The Peace Tower Carillon is the only permanent musical presence on Parliament Hill. This large musical instrument of tower bells is played approximately 200 days a year by the Dominion Carillonneur - currently Dr. Andrea McCrady - and can be heard within a radius of several city blocks. Like all carillons, the Peace Tower Carillon is manual, mechanical and acoustic. In other words, it is played by a person, it is entirely mechanical, and listeners hear the bells live.
Of the eleven carillons in Canada, the Peace Tower Carillon is the most frequently played, and the best known. From September to June each year, the carillonneur performs from noon to 12:15, playing a different programme each day. In July and August, the recitals are a full hour in duration - from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. each weekday.
Carillons were first built in Flanders around 1500. The Flemish had by then grown tired of the hourly repetition of their ornate, automated, clock melodies, and became the first to hang clappers inside stationary clock bells. They then connected these clappers to a big keyboard and hired a musician to create new music.
The first Dominion Carillonneur of Canada was Percival Price who, following 12 years of service, went on to teach music at the University of Michigan. Price's assistant, Robert Donnell, took over and played for 35 years until 1975, when Émilien Allard started. Allard died two years later. Gordon Slater was appointed Dominion Carillonneur in 1977 and retired after 31 years of service in 2008. Dr. Andrea McCrady is the current Dominion Carillonneur, having assumed the role in November 2008.
Dominion Carillonneurs of Canada