The distinctive sound of carillon bells fills the streets of many Belgian cities. But Mechelen is the undisputed capital of the carillon.
Every Monday evening in the summer months, beginning in early June, the town carillonneur climbs the Cathedral tower to give a one-hour concert.
The earliest carillon concerts were performed in 1887 by the Mechelen city carilloneur Jef Denyn. He developed an expressive way of playing that appealed to people at the time. His evening concerts were so popular that special trains ran from Antwerp and Brussels.
Denyn set up the world’s first carillon school in Mechelen in 1922. It received funding from several wealthy American donors including Herbert Hoover and John D. Rockefeller Jr. The school now occupies a former Norbertine priory in the heart of Mechelen.
You can listen to the bells play automatically every 15 minutes as you wander around the streets of Mechelen. Or you can catch a live performance on Saturdays from 11.30 to 12.30, Sundays from 15.00 to 16.00 and Monday evenings in the summer months from 20.30.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.