Game of Thrones on campus

1 May 2013

Despite the unseasonal warmth last Saturday, some people passing close to the University's Quadrangle might have started to feel winter is coming thanks to Isaac Wong's carillon performance of the theme to Game of Thrones.

His performance on the University Carillon has made him an overnight internet hit with more than 120,000 views of his performance on YouTube.

Carillons are the among the world's largest musical instruments, and consist of a series of fixed bells which sound when struck by clappers. Isaac is one of nine honorary carillonists who share the playing duties for graduations, weekly recitals and special ceremonies.

"I am a big fan of the Game of Thrones TV series, and absolutely love the opening sequence - both the music and the visual experience," says Isaac, a University of Sydney alumnus. I knew the music would sound perfect on the University's Carillon because the strength and sonority of these bells deliver the epic quality of the music.

"I think the publicity is great because the carillon is a great cultural asset of our University and of Sydney, but perhaps it has not enjoyed the recognition it deserves. I am glad to have put it on the map."

University Organist and Carillonist Amy Johansen said the unusual keyboard instrument can be physically demanding to play.

"You play the carillon with your fists instead of your hands, and there is also a pedal keyboard to play with your feet. Our carillon is a large one with 54 bells, weighing in at 27 tons in total bell weight", says Amy said.

There are no electronic parts or speakers, so if you hear the bells ringing there is always someone up there playing.

"We welcome all music requests. We've played anything from Bach to Lady Gaga, and One Direction has proven to be particularly popular lately," adds Amy. "We'll do anything as long as it works well on the bells."

Isaac's performance came two days after the 85th anniversary of the carillon's inauguration on Anzac Day 1928, in commemoration of the 197 undergraduates, graduates and staff who died in World War I.

The carillon was funded by generous donations, many from private individuals and families in memory of relatives or friends. Experts who provided advice on the carillon included Dr JJC Bradfield, a University alumnus of Sydney Harbour Bridge fame, who directed work to strengthen the Clocktower so that it could carry the weight of the bells and their frame without spoiling the musical effect or the appearance of the building.

The University of Sydney is still home to one of only two carillons in Australia: the other is on Aspen Island in Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin.

Free carillon recitals are given every Sunday afternoon at 2pm with a tour of the carillon afterwards. Bring a picnic and enjoy the music of the bells in the beautiful Quadrangle, where you can also watch the carillonist playing via a TV monitor. Weekday recitals are played on Tuesdays at 1pm.

Email Amy Johansen if you would like to make a request, including your contact details so that you can be notified if and when your request will be played.

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Enquiries: Sally Sitou, 9351 8647, 0401 135 962,