Carillon Ottawa: Schubert Winterreise

Dr McCrady

The carillon Ottawa is operated by Dr. med. Andrea McCrady


On our trip to Ottawa, we had the great honor of Andrea McCrady, the bell player in Ottawa's carillon in the Peace Tower of Parliament. She has been the Official Glockenspieler of the Dominion of Canada since 2008 and plays each weekday a new music program on the carillon in the peace tower of Ottawa, which arranges and assembles itself. Andrea McCrady is the fifth person to do this honorable post and the first woman to do the job in Canada. She has her art among others at the Carillon school in Mechelen in Belgium learned.

We meet her after the security check that has become necessary since the October 2014 attack on the Ottawa Parliament. We need identification as we are special guests of the Parliament which is our visit to Dr. McCrady approved. Our hostess tells us that it is not easy to visit her at work. For this, applications have to be made, permits granted, and even Parliament has to agree, because we want to visit the Ottawa carillon. If you register early enough and want to go through the whole procedure, you can visit her in the middle part of the Peace Tower, the middle tower in Ottawa's parliament building, and watch her at work.

 

The Ottawa Carillon is located in the Peace Tower of Parliament
The Ottawa Carillon is located in the Peace Tower of Parliament

The Keyboard Room of the Ottawa Parliament

Andrea McCrady's workspace is the Keyboard Room amidst the bells of the Ottawa Glockenspiel. There are 53 of them in total, with the heaviest, the Bourdon Bell, weighing more than 10.000 kilograms. It's a strange feeling to think of the weight of heavy metal hanging from the poles that are above the room we're in. "A glockenspiel is a percussion instrument," explains our hostess. "Each bell is struck with a clapper and made to ring." When you listen to a carillon you hear the bells, not recording or synthesizer music.

This is also the reason why Andrea McCrady makes her way to the Keyboard Room every day and presents her music program planned for the day there. “You can't cover up mistakes in the game on this instrument. They are broadcast just as well as a good game.” Apparently she is quite popular, because the young man who operates the elevator knows exactly which pieces she has played over the past few days and is very interested in what is on today program stands. "Schubert songs," she laughs and points to us. "Our guests come from Germany."

 

Franz Schubert Winter song from the carillon Ottawa
Franz Schubert Winter song from the carillon Ottawa

 

Schubert's Winterlied sounds from the Ottawa carillon

She specially selected it for us so that we can use this music in our video. “You signed up early enough,” she laughs. “The choice of music for the Ottawa Glockenspiel has to be approved by Parliament.” As I think about how much work and how many permits we needed for our visit, I become more and more aware of how much trust people place in us here. We feel honored and are all the more pleased that it worked out with our visit.

 

A carillon is played with hands and feet
The carillon Ottawa plays with hands and feet

 

This is how a carillon works

Then Andrea McCrady explains her musical instrument, which reminds me a little of an organ. She corrects me immediately: “A glockenspiel has nothing in common with an organ. It is a percussion instrument where the bells set the tone. They are fine-tuned by removing metal, usually from the inside of the bell, until it plays the exact tone you need. You can play a glockenspiel with a lot of feeling by giving or taking away the necessary power from the clapper. So I can even play such romantic songs as from Schubert's Winterreise."

She sat down on the bench in front of the instrument and began tuning the individual bells. "Since my last visit yesterday, my predecessor in office, Gordon Slater, appears to have been playing the glockenspiel. He is taller than me and has to adjust the instrument specifically for himself. I have to do it the other way around as well, otherwise the bells won't sound the way I want them to.” She picks up each individual cable and adjusts it using a method we don't understand until she's satisfied with the result.

 

Highly concentrated - Dr. med. Andrea McCrady on the Glockenspiel Keyboard
Highly concentrated - Dr. med. Andrea McCrady at the Glockenspiel Ottawa Keyboard

 

A glockenspiel requires high concentration

After that she asks us to be quiet for the next twenty minutes. "I have to concentrate on my music while dancing on the chimes," she says. We look at her in amazement and she laughs: "Yes, it's a bit like dancing, because a chime is operated with hands and feet." After the Bourdon bell has struck twelve o'clock, she sits calmly and collected on her bench , takes out one sheet of music after the other and plays Franz Schubert songs that we only hear in fragments in the background in the keyboard room.

After striking the last bars of Franz Schubert's "Forelle", she turns around and explains to us that we cannot hear all the bells in this room. “The little ones hanging at the top are too far away for their sound to get through to us. The best way to hear the Ottawa carillon is to stand in the square in front of Parliament.” I'm all the more impressed when I get home to the recording of their playing on the brand new sound system that records their XNUMX-minute concerts. It is amazing how soulful Schubert's songs sound on the percussion instrument glockenspiel.

 

The steel cables over the keyboard make the bells ring
The steel cables over the keyboard make the bells ring

 

We get to play the Bourdon bell at the Ottawa carillon

And then she winks at us and says: "Now it's your turn! Each of my visitors has to ring the big Bourdon bell. Our elevator staff is already waiting for it, because that way they know how many people are currently staying with me. ”She shows us how to get a tone out of the giant bell even with the little finger. It's actually very easy when I try it myself. And I thought that you need a lot of strength to play the carillon. We at Dr. Andrea McCrady learned. And also what it means to do something with great enthusiasm and passion.

 

Dr. Andrea McCrady - Dominion Carillonneur
Dr. Andrea McCrady - Dominion Carillonneur

 

What else is the Ottawa bell ringer working on?

She accompanies us to the exit and explains: “The twenty minutes I spend in the keyboard room every day is not all my work. I have to rearrange pieces of music that have been written for completely different instruments so that they sound good on the glockenspiel. I'm looking for the music program that has to be approved by parliament. This afternoon I'm teaching glockenspiel students here in the tower and then of course I have to practice, practice, practice. But what could be nicer than spending your time with music? ”How can someone say it better than a woman who dances on her musical instrument?

 

Chimes Ottawa
Click on the photo and save the “Ottawa carillon” on Pinterest.

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Source: own research on site. We would like to thank Ottawa Tourism and Dr. Andrea McCrady of Glockenspiel Ottawa for organizing this visit to Glockenspiel Ottawa. However, our opinion remains our own.

Carillon Ottawa: Schubert Winterreise
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