Illinois State Senator Thomas Rees fell in love with carillons while visiting Belgium and the Netherlands as a newspaperman during World War I. When he died in 1933, he left Springfield $200,000 and detailed instructions to construct a carillon in Washington Park.
This remarkable and complex musical instrument generally contains at least 23 bronze bells suspended in a bell tower, tuned in chromatic order and traditionally played by striking a keyboard with a baton. The carillon originated in Flanders in the 16th century, when the idea struck to use large swinging bells together to make melodies, as opposed to beckoning people to church.
The giant instrument in Washington Park has a whopping 67 bells that are played manually with a keyboard. The number and quality of the bells make it one of the largest and finest carillons in the world. When the Springfield Park District hired current carillonist Carlo von Ulft, it also became the headquarters for the North American Carillon School, and today students from around the globe come to Springfield to learn to play the carillon.
Know Before You Go
Free weekly concerts are offered during the spring and summer months, as well as tours for $4.