Three new bells for Oslo Cathedral  

OSLO - The new carillon of Oslo Cathedral was inaugurated just before Christmas 2003. With the installation six months later of another new instrument at Uranienborg Church, the city of Oslo has joined the rare group of cities with three or more carillons. The total number of carillons in the Nordic Countries now stands at 45.

Oslo Cathedral was built in 1697. In 1850, its tower was remodelled and a higher steeple spire erected. In 1924, the church was promised a large donation from an inheritance designated for the purchase of a carillon. Unfortunately, the money was spent. By lucky coincidence, 80 years later, a wealthy inhabitant of the city named Ørnulf Thorbjørn Myklestad, after having heard the story about the money that went missing, gave his whole fortune to the cathedral for a carillon.

The 48 new Norwegian bells were cast by the Olsen Nauen bell-foundry of Tønsberg. Olsen Nauen was also responsible for installation in the tower. It would have been an obvious choice to install the carillon in the open top of the tower, but the Ministry of Culture would not allow changes to the outside facade of the tower, since the bells would make the cathedral look different than when it was built.

The largest bell, christened 'St. Cecilia', is a g1 weighing 680 kg. The text of the inscription on the bell reads (English translation): "Jubilate Deo. This carillon will sound for God's honour and people's gladness. The carillon is a gift to Oslo Cathedral from Ørnulf Thorbjørn Myklestad, born 19.06.1917. May the music give happiness to the citizens of Oslo and guests in our beautiful capital for many years to come."

Clock-O-Matic of Belgium fabricated the European standard keyboard. The automatic playing system is an Apollo II station activating electromagnetic hammers used for playing ritornellos.

On Sunday, December 14 2003, the new carillon was dedicated by bishop Gunnar Stålsett. Vegar Sandholt played the inaugural recital, as part of the annual Christmas concerts in the Cathedral. At the moment, the carillon is being played once a month, plus at Christmas and Easter and on request for weddings and funerals.

For its 125th anniversary, the congregation of Uranienborg ordered a carillon with the intention to emphasize the connection of the church to the people in the city. The dedication recital on the carillon was played by Vegar Sandholt on June 13 2004. Sandholt was also the carillon consultant for the congregation.

The instrument comprises 37 bells cast by Olsen Nauen with a d1 bourdon weighing 1,600 kg. A new Keyboard 2000 was built by Royal Eijsbouts from The Netherlands. The keyboard and the bell frame are prepared for 49 bells, so that in future the instrument can be easily expanded. A novelty was chosen for the automatic playing system: the 'Carillair' uses air to activate mechanical 'fingers' that push down the keys of the clavier, activating the carillon clappers. Ritornello hymn tunes based on the liturgical year are played every third hour.

The three largest bells of the carillon are named after Maria, Zachariah and Simeon, and their Latinate inscriptions are sections of their respective New Testament songs (canticles): MARIA: "Magnificat amima mea dominum et exsultavit spiritus meus in deo salutari meo"; ZACHARIA: "Benedictus dominus deus israel zuia visitavit, et fecit redemptionem plebis suæ"; and SIMEON: "Nunc dimittis servum tuum domine secundum verbum tuum in pace".

The next six consecutive bells were inscribed with the following texts from the Ordinary of the Mass: bell 4: KYRIE ELEISON; bell 5: GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO; bell 6: CREDO IN UNUM DEUM; bell 7: SANCTUS, SANCTUS, SANCTUS DOMINUS DEUS SABAOTH; bell 8: AGNUS DEI QUI TOLLIS PECCATA MUNDI, MISERERE NOBIS; bell 9: ITE, MISSA EST - ALLELUIA.

The tower also houses three swinging bells cast in 1884 by J.J. Radler from Hildesheim (Germany).

Every month, carillonneur Vegar Sandholt plays a recital and gives guided tower tours together with bell ringer Terje de Groot. The congregation can also request carillon music for weddings, funerals, other religious festivities and special events.