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History

Prime Minister Mackenzie King throws a commemorative dime into the molten bell metal. Croydon, England. November, 1926.
Prime Minister Mackenzie King throws a commemorative dime into the molten bell metal. Croydon, England. November, 1926.

The Peace Tower Carillon was inaugurated on July 1, 1927, the 60th anniversary of Confederation. It was commissioned and installed by order of Parliament to commemorate the Armistice of 1918 and the sacrifice made by Canada during the First World War. The inauguration ceremony was a major event and also marked the first live coast-to-coast radio broadcast in Canada. It is estimated that several million people heard the inaugural concert both in Canada and internationally.

Between 1925 and 1927, the world famous bell foundry of Gillett and Johnston in Croydon, England cast and tuned the bells. The carillon is comprised of 53 bells, ranging in size from the bourdon, which weighs over 10 tonnes, to the smallest bell, which weighs only 4.5 kilos. Each bell is tuned to produce a specific note of the musical scale. The bells are stationary, and are rung by the movement of their internal clappers. Each clapper is connected through a series of direct mechanical linkages to the carillon keyboard. A carillon's mechanical playing action, like that of a piano, allows the carillonneur to vary the sound by changing the way he or she strikes the keys.

Carillon bells arrive at the CPR's Union Station by railway flatcar from Montreal, 1927.
Carillon bells arrive at the CPR's Union Station by railway flatcar from Montreal, 1927.
Unloading bells on Parliament Hill, 1927.
Unloading bells on Parliament Hill, 1927.
 
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Last Update: February 2016