The Washington Post

Netherlands Carillon

Rocks out with its bells out

Imagine church bells played as nimbly as handbells and with as much nuance as a piano. That’s the sound of a carillon, an instrument made of 50 bells connected to a clavier (keyboard) and foot pedals. The Dutch gave this 127-foot-tall tower to the U.S. as thanks for aid during and after World War II.

The circular garden in front of the tower, filled with flowers three seasons of the year, offers a postcard-perfect view of the Mall. Each day, a computer plays patriotic songs using 18 of the bells. Sadly, the answer to “Can one climb the tower?” is “no.”

Netherlands Carillon, off U.S. 50 adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery; 6 a.m.-midnight, free; 703-289-2500.

Did You Know?

›› Each of the 50 bells bears a verse. The littlest, weighing 37.5 pounds, reads: “I am the smallest, the purest.”

›› Together, the bells span a little more than four octaves — not quite Mariah Carey’s range, but impressive nonetheless. ›› Playing Lady Gaga songs on carillons is a popular activity at American universities, judging by YouTube clips.

›› Before it was rehabbed in 1970, the carillon was in such poor condition that bells would fall out, causing carillonneurs to avoid lively tunes.

Learn More! Explore D.C., a free iPhone app from The Washington Post, is a guide to the city’s attractions, big and small. Download it today from the App Store.



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