The Carillon Society of Britain and Ireland (CSBI) was founded in 1976 as the British Carillon Society, with its inaugural meeting at St Mary’s Lowe House, St. Helens. The principal aims of the Society are to promote the art of the carillon in Great Britain and Ireland, having a particular concern for carillons and chimes played by the traditional baton keyboard. The Society holds regular meetings and co-operates with carillon societies in other countries. The Society is a member of the World Carillon Federation. We publish carillon and chime music, as well as a newsletter twice a year. Membership is open to carillonists, chimers and interested individuals and organisations which support the aims of the Society.

Here we hope you will find much of the information you should want to know about carillons and where to find them in Britain and Ireland.

What is a carillon?

A Carillon is a musical instrument consisting of 23 or more cast bronze, traditionally shaped bells, which have been precisely tuned so that any bells can be sounded together to produce a harmonious effect.

The bells

Carillon bells are hung stationary; only the clappers move. This is very different from how bells are rung in change ringing.

The Clavier

The clapper of each bell is connected by wires and other linkage to a playing mechanism called a clavier or console. This clavier contains a double row of rounded levers – called batons – and also includes a pedal board.

The Carillonneur sits on a bench facing the clavier and plays the instrument by depressing these batons with their hands which are loosely clenched into fists.

The batons are arranged in the same pattern as the keys of a piano. The pedals which are connected to the heavier, bass bells, are depressed by the feet.

As with the piano, expressive playing is achieved by variation of touch.