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The carillon and organ

The ceremonial voices of the University
The carillon and the organ, our two largest musical instruments, are a part of University life and can be heard all through the semester as well as at special events.

If you walk through the Quad on a Tuesday at lunchtime, you’ll hear the bells of the carillon chiming from the clocktower. They might be playing a classic song or a familiar tune like the theme song from Game of Thrones. Known formally as the University of Sydney War Memorial Carillon, it was dedicated on 25 April 1928 and we celebrated its 90th anniversary on Anzac Day, 2018.

Inside the Great Hall lives the von Beckerath organ. A visually and aurally spectacular instrument, the organ is played at more than 80 graduation processions each year. With more than 4000 pipes, it is recognised as one of Australia's finest pipe organs.

University of Sydney Organist and Carillonist Amy Johansen plays both instruments and leads an enthusiastic team of honorary carillonists: Liz Cartwright, Ted Grantham, Daniel Guo, Lucy Koe, Veronica Lambert, Siang Ching Ngu, Jane Stewart and Isaac Wong. 

More information on the carillon and organ

Sundays on campus

There are free carillon recitals every Sunday afternoon at 2pm. The best place to listen s in the cloisters near MacLaurin Hall. A recital program is available under the clocktower on the wooden noticeboard. A free tower tour to see the instrument follows each Sunday recital at 2.45pm. To join, meet under the clocktower at 2.45pm. 

Tuesdays during semester

The carillon is also played on Tuesdays between 1 and 2pm during the University semester. Song requests by email are welcome. Note, there are no recitals during exam periods or the Christmas break. 

Other performances
Contact the University Carillonist, Amy Johansen to enquire about carillon performances for weddings and other occasions. 

If you can’t listen on campus, you can download some sample audio files. These samples come from the CD Organ and Carillon Music from the University of Sydney

The University of Sydney War Memorial Carillon was dedicated on Anzac Day, 25 April 1928. It commemorates the more than 200 undergraduates, graduates and staff who died in World War I. The National Carillon in Canberra, dedicated in 1970, is a sister carillon to the University of Sydney War Memorial Carillon.

In 1973, the top bells were returned to the original founders for recasting and, at the same time, five additional small bells were cast. The rebuilt carillon now has 54 bells and a range of four and a half octaves. The lowest note, called the bourdon, is G on the bottom line of the bass stave (A flat in terms of pitch). This bell weighs approximately four and a half tonnes. The 23 lower bells were cast by the Taylor bell-foundry, of Loughborough, England. The upper 31 treble bells were cast by the Whitechapel bell-foundry of London.

Free organ recitals take place in the Great Hall on various Sundays during the year, from 3.30-4.30pm. Entry is via the Quadrangle.

  • Sunday 19 August: Amy Johansen (playing audience requests) 
  • Sunday 14 October: Albert Koch (Freiberg, Germany)
  • Sunday 4 November: Glebe Musical Festival Recital: Thomas Crome (Germany), Alphorn with Amy Johansen 
  • Sunday 2 December: Amy Johansen (playing Christmas music)

The organ, completed in 1972, was designed by Rudolf von Beckerath of Hamburg, Germany, and built in conjunction with Ronald Sharp who built the Sydney Opera House organ. They were assisted by architect T.E. O’Mahony and the Deputy Principal’s Office.

The organ has three manuals and pedals, mechanical key and electric stop action, 54 stops, 79 ranks and 4005 pipes. The cedar case, which blends harmoniously with the architecture of the Great Hall, was constructed in the University’s Joinery Shop.

Looking towards the organ, the three manual and pedal console can be seen on the left.  Above it are large principal pipes from the Great division (middle keyboard), with the rest of the Great pipes situated immediately behind these display pipes. Above the Great is the Swell division (top keyboard), which is the expressive section of the instrument enclosed in a large wooden box with front shutters operated by the Swell pedal at the console. In the centre of the gallery, jutting out into the hall, is the Ruckpositiv division (bottom keyboard), and on the right side, the Pedal division.

Arranged symmetrically across the two large cases are the spectacular horizontal pipes of the Chancellor’s Trumpet stop, added in 2012 by the Beckerath company to mark the 40th anniversary of the organ, as a gift from Sydney University's Chancellor’s Committee. 

Amy Johansen is the University of Sydney Organist and Carillonist. Her duties include performing on the organ in the Great Hall and on the 54-bell War Memorial Carillon for graduation ceremonies (more than 80 each year), recitals and special events, and teaching carillon. She leads an enthusiastic team of honorary carillonists who share the playing duties.

Amy began her carillon studies with Dr Jill Forrest, now Emeritus University Carillonist, in 1997. She is a certified Carillonneur member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America, and apart from her regular recitals at the University, has played in Canberra and across the USA, Canada and Europe. 

Facts & figures

Our musical instruments

  • 90 The number of years since the Carillon was dedicated
  • 54 The number of bells in the Carillon
  • 4005 The number of pipes in the Organ

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