The National Carillon, located on Aspen Island, Lake Burley Griffin, was a gift from the British Government to the people of Australia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national capital, Canberra. It was presented by Queen Elizabeth II on 26 April 1970.
A carillon is a stationary set of chromatically tuned bells (minimum 23) in a tower, usually played from a keyboard. The National Carillon has 55 bronze bells each weighing between seven kilograms and six tonnes. The bells were cast in England by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough.
The National Carillon tower was designed Western Australian architects Cameron, Chisholm & Nicol and comprises three angular columns clad in quartz and opal chip. The maximum height of the tower is 50 metres from ground level allowing the music of the bells to drift across Lake Burley Griffin and through Kings and Commonwealth Parks. The tower is lit at night.
Carillonists play the suspended stationary bells from a keyboard of wooden batons and pedals, called a clavier (about half way up the tower). A separate mechanical system of operation allows the quarter hour striking of the Westminster chimes.
The National Carillon is played on a regular basis during the year by both local and visiting carillonists. It is often used to celebrate national days and is played in conjunction with other events such as Australia Day.
The best place to listen to the National Carillon is one where you have an unobstructed view of the tower and usually within a radius of one hundred metres. Take along a picnic, relax on a seat or on the grass, or just listen as you stroll around the lake. This is a popular spot for wedding photographs.
While here do spare the extra few minutes it takes to walk around Aspen Island.
Not enough visitors spare the few minutes it takes to have a stroll around the island, to experience Australian Bush right in the centre of the city as well as taking in the different views out from the island, as opposed to just looking in.
There is a free bbq, picnic tables and some park benches on the island making it a great little spot to linger a while over a bite to eat.
The island is accessed via a bridge from King’s Park. In recent years lovers took to attaching padlocks to the railings on this bridge, as sign of their eternal love for one and other. In a less than loving gesture, government contractors moved in and removed the locks together with the original railings, replacing the latter with railings of such a thickness that precluded the attachment of an average sized padlock. It would appears that the love of Canberrans for each other is not of sufficient strength to warrant the procurement of a lock large enough to fit on the current railings. Accordingly, the bridge remains lockless. Just thinking, perhaps handcuffs would be a more appropriate addition!
Regular recitals at the Carillon take place Wednesdays and Sundays 12.30pm to 1.20pm.
Additional recitals times vary from month to month but each week sees a number of lunchtime and evening recitals which generally last around an hour. Recital times and programs can be viewed or downloaded from the website below.
Entrance fee : Free
Address: Aspen Island, Kings Park
Directions: By Lake Burley Griffin, close to Kings Bridge