Exposition ‘Where bells sing’

In the autumn of 2021, the carillon in the tower of the Hilversum Town Hall received a major makeover. A clattering keyboard, outdated wire mechanics and worn clappers required major maintenance. At the same time, the carillonneur’s playpen was given a makeover. This was enlarged in such a way that from now on visitors can actually view the playing of the carillon up close. The renovation of the carillon was the reason for the Dudok Architecture Center to visualize its history. We tell the story of more than sixty years of carillon with historical (image) material, objects and photos of the recent restoration work. From Dudok’s first sketch of the then closed tower to the carillonneur’s newly renovated playroom. A story of singing bells and good people.

“Where bells sing, good people live!” wrote Father J. Feyen, secretary of the Belgian Carillonneurs Guild in 1965 in his introduction to the International Carillon Competition, which was held annually in the context of the Holland Festival in Hilversum. The carillon had already gained worldwide fame by then and was widely praised for its clear sounds. Yet it had taken many years before the tower of Dudok’s town hall was actually decorated with a carillon.

Singing tower

“I hope that, when the times become more favorable, the Hilversum public will also wish to make this tower a singing tower through voluntary contributions, and thus a truly living element in our midst.” According to Dudok in his explanatory memorandum accompanying the submission of the town hall design in June 1924. He could not have imagined that it would take more than thirty years before his wish came true and the tower actually started to sing. A lack of financial resources was the reason that the tower could not be graced with a beautiful chime immediately during the construction of the town hall.

Hundred-thousandth resident

It wasn’t until the mid-fifties. In anticipation of the expected birth of the city’s hundred-thousandth inhabitant, preparations began to fit the tower with a real carillon. On April 24, 1958, Jantje Geers was born, a healthy nine-pound baby, and registered as the hundred-thousandth resident of Hilversum. In honor of this, the inhabitants of Hilversum donated a chime to the municipality. Mayor Boot raised a large sponsorship amount from the business community and the remaining funds were raised by the civilian population.

Heavy carrilon

President Mr. Romke de Waard of the Dutch Glockenspiel Association and the famous bell foundry firm Eijsbouts from Asten in North Brabant advised on the carillon to be purchased. This became a so-called heavy carillon of four octaves consisting of 47 bells. The largest bell weighed about 2300 kg, the smallest bell 12 kg. The total weight of the carillon was 11,293 kg. The tower had to be reinforced to support the enormous weight of the carillon.

Bronze voices

On September 16, 1958, the municipal council officially received the carillon. The carillon was played by the famous carillonneur Leen ’t Hart, director of the Dutch Carillon School in Amersfoort. According to De Gooi- en Eemlander, it was an impressive event when ‘t Hart ‘reached high in the tower for the keyboard and the light and heavy bronze voices, up there, started to play the Wilhelmus’.

Carrilon competition

The warm sounds of the carillon were praised by many bell players. The city carillonneur played the instrument on Wednesdays and Saturdays. At the hour and half hour, an automatic time signal sounded, preceded by a melody. From 1959 to 1973, as part of the Holland Festival, the annual International Carillon Competition took place at the town hall carillon, in which many world-famous carillonneurs took part. The carillon also became well known by providing the signature tune of Radio Netherlands Worldwide “Merck Toch hoe sterck” and announcing the eight o’clock radio news on Hilversum 1 with the melody of ‘O Netherlands, please note your saeck’. And many Hilversummer enjoyed the regularly performed summer evening concerts.


Dudok Architectuur Centrum


€4 per person. Children up to and including 12 years: free (accompanied by an adult).


Extra information

The Dudok Architecture Centrum organizes a number of special tower tours, including a visit to the renovated carillonneur’s loft. If you are interested in these guided tours, please register via info@dudok architecturecentrum.nl. You will be notified as soon as possible about the dates on which the tower tours will be organised.
website: sbddesign.nl