O Canada

If you visit Parliament Hill around mid-day during the week, you will hear the Peace Tower Carillon ringing. This large instrument of tower bells is played approximately 200 days a year by the Dominion Carillonneur. From September to June each year, the carillonneur performs from noon to 12:15, playing a different programme each day. In July and August, the recitals are a full hour, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. each weekday.

The Peace Tower Carillon was inaugurated on July 1, 1927, the 60th anniversary of Confederation. It was commissioned and installed by order of Parliament to commemorate the Armistice of 1918 and the sacrifice made by Canada during the First World War. The inauguration ceremony was a major event and also marked the first live coast-to-coast radio broadcast in Canada.

Between 1925 and 1927, the world famous bell foundry of Gillett and Johnston in Croydon, England cast and tuned the bells. The carillon is comprised of 53 bells, ranging in size from the bourdon, which weighs over 10 tonnes, to the smallest bell, which weighs only 4.5 kilos. Each bell is tuned to produce a specific note of the musical scale. The bells are stationary, and are rung by the movement of their internal clappers. Each clapper is connected through a series of direct mechanical linkages to the carillon keyboard. A carillon’s mechanical playing action, like that of a piano, allows the carillonneur to vary the sound by changing the way he or she strikes the keys.

Dr. Andrea McCrady is the current Dominion Carillonneur, having assumed the role in November 2008. On Tuesday this week, I was one of the lucky guests to attend her noon recital. Here’s a peek inside the playing room. May 8 was the birthday of Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), and here is the program Dr. McCrady performed:

  • O Canada
  • Valsa-Chôro, by Heitor Villa-Lobos, arranged by Liesbeth Janssens
  • Gracias a la vida, by Violetta Parra, arranged by Andrea McCrady
  • La Savane, Ballade Creole, by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, arranged by Marco de Goeij

After the recital Dr. McCrady answered questions, and let each guest strike the 10 tonne bourdon bell. I wonder what the visitors outside must have thought!

More information on the Peace Tower Carillon may be found here. Check out the upcoming recital programs. You may enjoy some of the selections!

Create your JUNO moment!

Ottawa is hosting the JUNO awards on April 1. As part of the celebrations, JUNO pianos have been placed in locations throughout the capital. Bring your talent to any of the 12 public JUNO Piano locations between March 28 and April 1. Record your performance on photo or video and share it on the JUNO Pianos Facebook page.

The JUNO Pianos are located at:

  • Canadian Museum of Civilization
  • Canada Science and Technology Museum
  • Carleton University Art Gallery
  • Casino du Lac Leamy
  • Centrepointe Theatre
  • University of Ottawa Tabaret Hall
  • Conservatoire de Musique de Gatineau
  • La Nouvelle Scène
  • National Art Centre
  • ByWard Market
  • Shenkman Arts Centre
  • Le Twist Café-Restaurant Bar

Share your moment and be a JUNO star! More information on all the JUNO activities can be found here.

Do pianos have bellybuttons?

At yesterday’s group class my students were watching Note By Note: The Making of Steinway L1037. It’s a video documenting the one-year journey of the making of a nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano.

A craftsman was being interviewed, and his title appeared onscreen as “Bellyman.” We tried to guess where the belly of a piano is, and then started to giggle when someone said, “Do pianos have bellybuttons?” The bellyman installs the soundboard in a piano. He also carves the notches in the bridge, where the pins and strings will eventually go.

If you’re interested in what a bellyman, a chipper, and a tone regulator do, both the DVD Note by Note and the book Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand are available from the Ottawa Public Library.

Studio On The Go

Last night I had the pleasure of playing at the Stittsville Sobey’s again. This time I brought along a few students from my studio. E.H., A.K., A.W., M.W., and R.S. did us all proud. Well done!

And thank you to Sobey’s for having us.

New Arts Season

Today the Ottawa Citizen released its guide to cultural events happening in 2011-2012. Music, visual art, theatre, dance, film, books – there are a lot of great events happening in Ottawa. There are some excellent pianists coming to town to play with the NAC Orchestra. If you get the chance, take in a concert by these world class pianists: Angela Hewitt, Olga Kern, Jon Kimura Parker, Jan Lisiecki, Louie Lortie, and Yundi. Most of these artists are Canadian. Angela Hewitt grew up in Ottawa. Jon Kimura Parker was born and raised in Vancouver. Louie Lortie was born in Montreal. Jan Lisiecki was born in Calgary and is currently studying at the Glenn Gould School of Music in Toronto.

And for a hilarious look at being a pianist, take in the play 2 Pianos, 4 Hands by Canadians Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt at the National Arts Centre January 10-28, 2012.

Got Milk?

I’ll be playing at the new Sobey’s store in Stittsville on August 24, 1:00-4:00 p.m. and 5:00-8:00 p.m.; and August 25, 1:00-4:00 p.m. Sobey’s is having their grand opening and celebrating by inviting local musicians to play live music. Come on over and catch a concert while you pick up your milk.