The St. John the Evangelist carillon in Bishop Cross Tower is one of the finest in the world and one of very few in the Pacific Northwest. The carillon consists of 49 cast bells, cast and installed by John Taylor and Sons of Loughborough, Leicestershire, England.
On July 4 St. John's Cathedral will host an Independence Day carillon concert at 9 p.m.
Robert MacRae, a recent visitor to the Cathedral tower described his ascent to the carillon.
“We began in the nave of the Cathedral, stepping into a circular rocket-shaped elevator about 2′ 6″ in diameter. The rounded door closes, clamping its passengers securely in its grip. The twenty-second ride brought us to a first level, probably about five stories up. From there, it was a climb up four steel ladders through a brick chimney. It is difficult to describe how one squeezes around the top step of one ladder on to the bottom step of the next climb. Finally we stepped outdoors onto a parapet with astonishing views of the city, then back inside and up a normal staircase into the clavier cabin. The bells were still high above us, fastened into racks. The only moving parts are the clappers, striking the bell through a series of levers from the keyboard.”
The keyboard has manual keys equivalent to each note on the carillon itself. The keys are rounded at the playing end. In addition, there are one to two octaves of pedal keys, played with the feet, which permits a performer to play the heavy bass bells with the feet, while still using hands in the middle and upper octaves.
Although the keys are played with a closed fist, a properly adjusted carillon allows the performer to play with a minimum of effort.
For more information, check the Cathedral website or call 838-4277. The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is located at 127 E. 12th Avenue, at Grand Blvd. Free parking is available in the lot behind Lindaman’s Restaurant.