Facts & figures
Our musical instruments
- 91 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
If you walk through the Quadrangle on a Tuesday at lunchtime, you’ll hear the bells of the carillon chiming from the Clocktower. Played live by one of our team of dedicated carillonists, you will hear anything from a classical song to a familiar tune, like the theme song from Game of Thrones, or maybe a Disney classic or a current pop song. Known formally as the University of Sydney War Memorial Carillon, it was dedicated on 25 April 1928. 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.
The University of Sydney Organist and Carillonist leads an enthusiastic team of casual musicians, many of whom have been playing the instruments for years.
The University of Sydney War Memorial Carillon was dedicated on Anzac Day, 25 April 1928. It commemorates the 197 undergraduates, graduates and staff who died in the First World War. 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.
Regular Sunday carillon recitals and tours are temporarily on hold.
The carillon is played on Tuesdays between 1–2 pm during the University semester. Song requests are welcome – please submit your request via email to email@example.com. Note, there are no recitals during exam periods or the Christmas break.
Contact the University Carillon and Organ team via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire about carillon performances for weddings and other occasions.
If you can’t listen on campus, you can download sample audio files. These samples come from the CD Carillon and Organ.
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, a 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.
Free organ recitals take place in the Great Hall on various Sundays during the year. There are no more recitals taking place in 2023, but please keep an eye on the University event calendar for recitals in 2024.
Amy Johansen is our immediate past University of Sydney Organist and Carillonist. Her duties included 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.
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 duties during her time at the University, has played in Canberra and across the USA, Canada and Europe.
After many years of service as University Organist and Carillonist, Ms Amy Johansen left the University in November 2023, and the role of University Organist and Carillonist is currently vacant.
Facts & figures