The carillon was a gift from the British government to the people of Australia to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the national capital, Canberra. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the National Carillon on 26 April 1970. The tower, standing 50 metres (160 ft) tall, was designed by Cameron Chisholm Nicol, a firm based in Western Australia. The concept was developed by Don Ho, one of the firm's architects, in 1968. In 2004, the carillon underwent refurbishment, including renovations of interior function facilities and the addition of two extra bells.
Carillons must have at least 23 bells to be considered as such, and the National Carillon has 55 (increased from 53 during refurbishments in 2003). Each bell weighs between seven kilograms (15 pounds) and six tonnes. The bells span four and a half octaves chromatically.
The carillon features moderate-size function facilities for small gatherings offering wonderful views over Lake Burley Griffin and central Canberra.
The carillon is in regular use, chiming every quarter-hour and playing a short tune on the hour along with tours and recitals on many days. For example, there is usually a recital of carols on Christmas Eve each year with music being played for around an hour at dusk. The best place to listen to the carillon is suggested to be within 100 metres of the building though the sound can usually be heard much further away in the Parliamentary Triangle, Kingston and Civic.
Links to memorials
The adjacent National Workers Memorial was constructed with the idea that people attending would hear the sound of bells from the carillon, which would assist them in remembering their loved ones.
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