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History of the Carillon Society of Australia

The Carillon Society of Australia (CSA) was established in 1981 as a professional organisation dedicated to the promotion of the carillon and its music.

The early years

Excerpts from Then & Now – Reflections from the Retiring President

Reginald Walker, in Dulci Tomes No. 17 (August 1996: 1-4)

It all began in 1981 on a cold winter’s day in a park at Berrima in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, approximately midway between Sydney and Canberra. A small group of enthusiastic carillon players had come from Canberra to join with a small group of enthusiastic carillon players from Sydney, and we met in the park sitting around one of the picnic lunch tables. Perhaps I should say not sitting, but huddled, in view of the cold day and the icy westerly wind. Some of us had spouses, and all of us had wind jackets and cold weather gear. We shared hot coffee and conversation, and it was in this situation that the gestation of the Carillon Society of Australia took place.

We elected our initial officer bearers – John Gordon, “father/grandfather” of us all naturally was our first President; Vice-Presidents were myself from Sydney and George Howe from Canberra. Sue Magassy, whose initiative and enthusiasm had a great deal to do with bringing into being the Carillon Society of Australia, was appointed as our first Secretary. We set in train the process of preparation and adoption of our first constitution.

Two other meetings took place under these wintry conditions. The weather on each of the three occasions did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm and our determination to establish the Society. We agreed to meet twice yearly, with the meetings evenly divided between Sydney and Canberra.

In 1982, at the time of the World Carillon Congress in Løgumkloster, Denmark, our Society was accepted as one of the members of the World Carillon Federation.

Reflecting on Then and Now, this is what I see:

  1. The Society is still a small body, but there has been steady growth and our numbers have more than doubled. At the present time we have 12 members from Sydney, 12 members from Canberra and four members from overseas. All but five of our members are carillon players.

  2. At the time of the inception of our Society, all carillon players had been taught the art of carillon playing by John Gordon, whose influence upon us and upon the carillon generally in Australia, was immense. We all have an ongoing debt of gratitude to him and very fond memories of him as a person, friend, teacher, performer, and in general a source of great inspiration. His death brought to a close 56 years of association with the Sydney Carillon, for 47 of which he was the first University Carillonist.

    At the present time, there are now five members of the Society who were students of the carillon (and subsequently appointed as carillon players) who have been taught by Jill Forrest and Joan Chia, i.e. in the post-John Gordon era.

  3. We have been fortunate in Sydney and in Canberra to have had a significant number of overseas visitors during the life of the Society. The first from The Netherlands was Leen ’t Hart, who visited in 1979, followed a year later by Milford Myhre from the USA. Our distinguished visitors have been a great stimulus because of their skills as performers in public recitals, private lessons, master classes and general advice. We have appreciated their friendship and help.

  4. Members of the Society have made numerous visits overseas. Our Society was represented at the World Carillon Congresses in Ann Arbor, USA 1986, Zutphen the Netherlands 1990, and Chambery, France 1994. Overseas visits have also given opportunity for tuition and advice as well as experience in performance on a wide variety of instruments in the USA, UK and Europe. Sue Magassy has been by far our most peregrinating player.

  5. The Carillon Society of Australia encouraged personal donations towards the cost of a bell to be installed in the carillon in the Peace Palace at The Hague.

  6. On two separate occasions the Society has discussed the proposal that there should be a firm constitutional link between Australia and New Zealand. … the decision not to proceed was made mainly because of impossible logistic problems.

    However, close cooperation exists with Timothy Hurd [the National Carillonist in Wellington] as a full member of our Society (and since April 1996, is one of our Vice-Presidents). He has also encouraged carillon players from Australia to attend tuition classes which he has held in January each year.

  7. One of the outstanding visitors from overseas was Jacques Maassen, who was Artist-in-Residence at the Canberra School of Music of the Australian National University in 1993 for one month. During this time he was able to have an extended weekend visit to carillon players in Sydney. His presence was an exciting stimulus, performing numerous recitals, lecturing at the School of Music and encouraging carillon compositions. His master classes and private lessons were much appreciated.

  8. In 1985 the Society established … “Dulci Tomes”, initially under the guidance and editorship of Annick Ansselin, and then from 1992 with Joan Chia as Editor. Sixteen issues have kept us in touch with each other and provide news of our Society’s activities for interested persons in other countries. This had been a laborious undertaking for both Annick and Joan, and the Society is greatly appreciative.

Reg Walker

Office Bearers of the CSA

Presidents
John D Gordon (1915-1991) 1981-1986
Reginald Walker 1986-1996
Jill Forrest 1996-2007
Lyn Fuller 2008-
Secretaries
Suzanne Magassy 1981-1990
Susan Wilkins 1990-1993
Frances Simons 1993-1994
Jill Forrest 1994-1996
June Catchpoole 1996-2009
Kerryn Milligan 2009-
Treasurers
William Fraser 1981-1996
Lyn Fuller 1996-1999
Catherine MacKenzie 1999-2009
Susan Antcliff 2009-
Newsletter Editor
Suzanne Magassy 1981-1985
Annick Ansselin 1985-1992
Joan Chia 1992-1998
Lyn Fuller 1998-

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