Carillons - History

History

In medieval times, swinging bells were first used as a way of notifying people of fires, storms, wars and other events. A ringing of bells rung from the lowest note to the highest note indicated that an attack had taken place. The use of bells in a musical fashion originated in the 16th century in the Low Countries. The first carillon was in Flanders, where a "fool" performed music on the bells of Oudenaarde Town Hall in 1510 by making use of a baton keyboard. The word "carillon" is from the French "quadrillon", meaning four bells. Bell towers were often used to alert the city of the time of day, and just before the strike of the hour bell a few higher tones were struck to gain the attention of the city-folk. A modern example is the Westminster Chimes, which can be heard in London on Big Ben.

In the 17th century, François and Pieter Hemony developed the art of bell-founding, designing, and tuning, which they passed on to Antwerp bellfounder Melchior de Haze. In the 18th century, several members of the Van den Gheyn bellfounders dynasty also mastered the skill of bell tuning, such as Andreas Joseph Van den Gheyn. Unfortunately his techniques also died with him. It was not until 1874 where the firm of Amédée Bollée and sons made a reasonably well-tuned carillon for the John the Baptist Cathedral in Perpignan, France.

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