Peace Tower bells to keep ringing out through construction

As construction workers take over Centre Block for the next 10 years, dominion carillonneur Andrea McCrady, dressed in a hard hat and steel toe boots, will continue climbing the Peace Tower each day to go to work.

The official carillonneur says the tower will not go silent

Dr. Andrea McCrady, Dominion Carillonneur of Canada since 2008, says she will make sure the Peace Tower bells keep ringing despite renovations to Centre Block. (Robyn Bresnahan/CBC)

As construction workers take over Centre Block for the next 10 years, Andrea McCrady, dressed in a hard hat and steel toe boots, will continue climbing the Peace Tower each day to go to work.

She's not in involved in the restoration project, per se. McCrady is the dominion carillonneur, and she lobbied hard to make sure the Peace Tower's famous bells continue to ring out.

"When I heard that Centre Block was going to close for a decade, I said, 'Well, the Peace Tower carillon​ cannot be silent for a decade,'" McCrady told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. 

"If the flag master could put up the flag, I can come up the tower and play."

Bells will toll till at least 2021

McCrady became the official carillonneur​ in 2008 after she left a career in medicine to pursue music. 

"I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I got here," she said. "I love this job. I's a thrill every day, and a great honour."

A drone photo of Centre Block's Peace Tower above Parliament Hill, May 2017. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

While construction goes on around her, McCrady will continue to climb about two-thirds of the way up the Peace Tower to a tiny, windowless room.

There, she hammers on the carillon's keyboard, making the music heard around Parliament Hill.

She said she's been told she can keep playing until at least 2021, when construction might silence the bells. Planners want to make sure the bells ring again by July 1, 2027, the 100th anniversary of their inauguration.

Artifacts, mementos moving

Portraits have been removed from the walls while staff and MPs relocate to the newly renovated West Blockthe temporary home of the House of Commons, starting in January.

The Library of Parliament, which survived the 1916 fire that destroyed the rest of the building, will also close down because the construction will make it impossible for people to visit or work there.

Johanna Mizgala, the curator who is responsible for making sure the art, ceremonial objects and heritage furniture are moved safely into the new building, said it's difficult to leave such a beloved space.

Johanna Mizgala, curator of the House of Commons Heritage Collection, is getting ready to leave Centre Block soon restoration efforts begin. (Robyn Bresnahan/CBC))

"You can't help but feel sad when you have to say goodbye to something, and ten years is a very long time," she told Ottawa Morning. 

"[But] it will also be an opportunity for this building to get some of its care it deserves."