Our history

Black-and-white photograph of 20 men and 3 women, all wearing suits and dresses posing for the camera. In the background is a line of trees; the Canadian Houses of Parliament are partly visible, including the large carillon clock tower

Since 1936, we have been a leading promoter and educator of the carillon art in both North America and the world. At our organization’s founding, our charter members met to define its original "aims and objects." They wrote:

  • To foster carillon music in North America
  • To exchange between carillonneurs, who usually are handicapped by a distance one from another, useful information in developing and popularizing their art
  • To give carillonneurs, and the public, the advantage of hearing different styles of playing
  • To find out the most practical layout of the keyboard, and the most useful conventions of musical notation, and to recommend their standardization
  • To circulate music for the carillon, to encourage original composition, and to be available for advice on arranging
  • To stimulate the use of the carillon in places where instruments and sites are good, and to advise on locations so as to avoid the establishment of carillons which cannot be used, or cannot be heard enough to justify their installation
  • To stand as an anonymous body qualified to advise on all questions concerning the carillon
  • To maintain contacts for those interested in the carillon, with carillon organizations, carillonneurs, makers, and directors of carillons throughout the world

This is the story of how we've met these aims and objects.


1934

Dr. Remsen B. Ogilby (1881–1943); the president and carillonneur of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut; invited people interested in the carillon to attend a meeting at the college and discuss matters of common interest. About 35 people attended, and resolutions were drawn up for another meeting. This gathering became known as the First Congress of Carillonneurs in North America.


1936

Percival Price (1901–1985) hosted the Second Congress of Carillonneurs in North America at the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario. At this meeting, our guild was established on September 3, with an executive committee and a constitution.


1940

We published the first volume of our journal, The Bulletin. It's the first periodical in North America dedicated to research on the carillon art and one of the few in the world today.


1947

Because at the time there was no existing music school for carillon outside Belgium, we established our own student examination process, the Carillonneur Exam, which encourages a higher standard of performance among our members. Today, passing the exam is a requirement for full membership.


1961

As early as 1940, we had been "issuing" carillon music for our members. To better encourage the growth of the available music repertoire, we established the first North American publishing house that specializes in music for the carillon.


1962

To exercise best practices in governance, we incorporated the GCNA under the provisions of the Minnesota Nonprofit Corporation Act. The next year, we replaced our executive committee with a board of directors and adopted bylaws. For administrative reasons, the state of incorporation was changed to California in 1992.


1969

We published the first issue of our semiannual newsletter. Originally titled Randschriften, which is German for "marginal writing," it was renamed to Carillon News 20 issues later in 1979.


1970

We created the North American keyboard standards and published them in The Bulletin volume 21. They were revised in 1981 and are available under “Appendix D” in our Carillon Tower Design and Construction booklet.


1978

At the World Carillon Congress in Amersfoort, Netherlands, the World Carillon Federation was founded. We joined immediately as a member organization and have since sent routine delegations.


1982

We commissioned Introduction and Sicilienne by Ronald Barnes, the first of over 25 commissions and counting.


1988

We hosted our first composition contest, named in honor of Johan Franco (1908–1988), a prolific composer for the carillon, among other instruments, and a well-respected member of our guild.


1993

To preserve our historic documents for future scholars, we began depositing them at the Anton Brees Carillon Library, located in Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida. A formal relationship with the library was formed in 2012.


1996

To better connect our members together, we went live on the internet! A major redesign of the site took place in 2007–08. In 2022, the US Library of Congress chose to include our site in its web archive of professional organizations for performing arts.


1998

To honor Ronald Barnes’ (1927–1997) extraordinary contributions to the North American carillon art, we established a research grant his name. It enables North American residents to pursue studies in carillon performance, composition, music history, or instrument design. We first awarded grants in 2007.


2005

We published Carillon Tower Design and Construction, an essential resource for architects, engineers, contractors, and others contemplating the planning, design, construction, or renovation of a carillon tower.


2011

To meet the persistent need to recognize an intermediate skill level in carillon performance, we created the Associate Carillonneur Exam.


2020

We hosted our first arrangements and transcriptions competition, named in honor of Sally Slade Warner (1932–2009), a renowned American carillonneur and music arranger who generously donated the endowment that funds the prizes.


With the onset of the pandemic and the cancellation of our congress, we began offering a webinar series, which are held regularly throughout the year and cover all topics of interest to the carillon community.


2021

We expanded our grant programs, adding


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Contact us: info@gcna.org

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