BATHURST'S stunning 47 bell War Memorial Carillon was more than 90 years in the making.
This May the town is hosting one bell of a festival to celebrate the completion of the carillon - one of the world's largest musical instruments which consists of cast bronze bells which are suspended from a keyboard of wooden batons and pedals, called a clavier.
The memorial's carillon was first dedicated in 1933, with 35 bells.
As a result of a huge fundraising drive, the carillon has been upgraded to a 47 bell instrument, meaning it covers four octaves and can play any piece of music composed for any instrument.
Bathurst will host the inaugural Festival of Bells from May 7-9 to celebrate the upgrade of the stunning new instrument.
'Oversized organ on steroids'
Festival convenor Stuart Pearson said the carillon was the only 47 bell carillon in regional and rural Australia and one of only three in the country.
He said not only had the extra 12 bells been added, but the original 35 were replaced because they had been "sounding a bit thin'.
The memorial also boasts two claviers - organ typed instruments which are used to play the bells. One is a practice clavier used by trainees, the other a prime clavier which has been installed in the bell tower itself.
"It's a huge instrument that is like a big oversized organ on steroids, but it is played with batons attached to levers and pulleys," he said.
"It can play anything from Waltzing Matilda, all the way through to a grand recital by Debussy, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga and everything in between."
He said bells ranged in weight from just 5kg to a whopping 1500kg.
"They had a preview concert here last weekend and people came to listen from all over the place. They hadn't heard an instrument that is anything like this before."
"At its top range it sounds like angels and at bottom range it sounds like booming bass bells."
"You can can sit two or three blocks away and still hear them."
The bell tower is one of two located in Bathurst - the Anglican Cathedral Tower features eight pealing bells and is located just 100m away.
A staggering $850,000 was raised for the upgrade to the giant instrument. $300,000 came from the NSW government, $200,000 from the federal government and the rest was raised by the community.
The Festival of Bells
The festival program will start with a Last Post ceremony run by the RSL on May 7.
There will be laying of wreaths and honouring of a local serviceman and woman from 5pm.
This will be followed by public access to the Eternal Flame Chamber and a sound and light show from 6pm.
On Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday afternoon, the festival will present a full program of music.
The program will be performed by carillonists from around the country, along with local bands, choirs, orchestras and musicians.
The program is still being finalised but will feature everything from classical music, to contemporary and world music.
Highlights will include a Mother's Day concert and a world premiere performance of a new work for carillon, digeridoo and voice by composer Gerard Brophy.
Stuart said he hoped the festival would attract thousands of people from Bathurst and beyond.
"We want people to know Bathurst is much more than just a place for car racing," he said.
"There's deep culture and music here and we want to showcase it."
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