Bells reach thousands

08 August, 2008

The Federation Handbells
A selection of the harmonic bells.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Over 3500 people have participated in playing the Federation Handbells, on loan through Museum Victoria, in the last year. The bells, which took close to three years of research and development to create, are the world’s first harmonic – tuned – bells.

A diverse collection of individuals and organisations, amounting to 3650 people in total, have played the bronze-cast handbells for exhibitions, community theatre, art interactions and public performances. Platform Youth Theatre, the Old Van, Ants Pants Music & Dance group and Strange Fruit at Birrarung Marr, are amongst groups that have performed with the Federation bells. 

A set of handbells has been on tour for six months through Central Victoria, visiting regional parishes and community music groups. The Federation Handbells also found their 15 seconds of fame with a performance on ABC TV’s ‘A very specky Christmas’ episode of Spicks and Specks, seen by more than 1.5 million people in 2007.

The Victorian state government commissioned the Federation Bell project to celebrate the Centenary of Federation in 2001.

The City of Melbourne is now running a competition, until 15 September, where would-be composers can design a tune online for the computer-controlled bells permanently installed at Birrarung Marr.

 The museum has 80 sets of bells, each set comprising 24 chromatic bells that are played with mallets, available through the Discovery Program.   

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