Churches and Carillons
Here’s the thing. Those never ending bells I mocked are in fact very special and I feel dumb that I never knew why. But how I love learning new stuff. The chimes on the quarters and the tunes on the half and the hour are a fantastic old mechanism. A huge wooden drum with pegs that hook the wires and drag them down to activate the clappers and play the tunes like a giant musical box. However on Thursdays and Saturdays there is in attendance a carillonneur. These wondrous musicians sit at a carillon, a large organ like keyboard with pedals and sticks rather than keys and they use their fists and feet to play the bells. Hence the many tunes such as the European National Anthem.
Carillons were big stuff in the Low Countries
When you can’t see the clock the length of the melodies helped to tell the time by ear. Early in the sixteenth century manual carillons were being included all over the low countries. There is little documented evidence of the tunes played but most academics claim it was religious hymns and psalms. And while this may indeed be true it seems that Carillonneurs in Protestant countries also played the latest compositions sweeping the music scene at the time. In fact at the Synod of Edam in 1586 they complained about the use of cheesy popular tunes and ballads.
I was hopeful for a little Beyoncé… “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it!”.
The automated wooden drum-played tunes are often changed every six months or so by removing and resetting a vast number of wooden pegs. I did request that I might be able to go up and watch the playing on Saturday but sadly the tower is closed for repairs currently.
The Quarter chimes – voorslag, were to call attention to the hour strikes
A tiny bit of history. The Delft Organist and carillonneur, Dirck Scholl had a famous dispute with Quirinus van Blankenberg from Gouda over the need for bass bells of pitch C and D as they were never used in French and Italian carillon compositions. I imagine they dropped a few clangers over that rather odd disagreement. Surely the more bells the merrier! Especially after they became chromatic and could play in any key. The carillons and their Carillonneurs were a source of civic pride and often as the municipality paid for them they therefore ignored the church’s request for piety.
When language puns go wonky
The commonalities and the everyday use of English can lead to some odd shop names.