Composing inspiration comes from a variety of sources, and in this blog post, Listen Imagine Compose Primary (LIC Primary) composer Chloe Knibbs tells us about using the Bournville Carillon as inspiration for her summer term workshops.

At the outset of BCMG’s LIC Primary project, we discussed how finding ways to compose sustainably meant working with the resources – instruments, spaces, particular skills people may have – that each school might have access to. Whilst working with Class 4A at Bournville Village Primary, I encountered a particularly special and unique resource for a school to have access to: the Bournville Carillon.

The Bournville Carillon, a pitched percussion instrument played with a keyboard connected to a set of bells, is one of 15 in the UK. The current Bournville Carilloneur, Trevor Workman, was recruited to play the instrument whilst working at the Cadbury Factory and now gives regular concerts and performances for the local community.  When I approached him about the possibility of performing new compositions by Bournville Primary Y4 he was very excited, and gave me a tour of the instrument in which he explained the history, repertoire, mechanisms and possibilities of the carillon.

As a result of this, I was able to share videos, photos and resources with Class 4A – allowing the children to explore what the carillon meant to them and learn more about the history of their own school. Some children were fascinated by the sound, others by the mechanisms of the carillon or and there was a particular appreciation for Trevor and his commitment to the instrument.

I asked the children to come up with words inspired by the carillon, that we would later use to generate melodic ideas using a cryptogram grid. There was a range of responses including “tiring” (as it looked very tiring to play) or “serious” (some of the class felt it was a great responsibility to play something that could be heard kilometres away) and other children described the quality of the carillon’s sound as “crystalized” or “special”. There was also the “frog” cryptogram of course (because frogs are cool). 

Using these words and the cryptogram grid, the children translated the letters into letters of the musical alphabet. As a class we were then able to try out these melodic ideas on tuned percussion, adding rhythms (short/long) and dynamic changes. This led to a workshop with saxophonist Naomi Sullivan in which we ordered the musical ideas, explored repetition and different structures to generate a class composition that combined all the cryptogram melodies. My colleague Angela Slater, working with the other two Y4 classes also explored cryptograms and melodies in their workshops which meant that there were three new works to be premiered at the concert.


The culmination of this project was a sunny afternoon concert in July, where the Y4 classes gathered to hear their compositions, and Bournville locals and passers-by were able to enjoy the premieres from the Bournville Green. It was wonderful to see the children recognise their melodic ideas and notice the differences when hearing them played on the carillon. 

I hope you enjoy listening to the performance of Bournville Village Primary Y4’s compositions for the carillon. Many thanks to the Bournville Village Primary Y4 teachers, my colleagues Angela Slater, Naomi Sullivan, and Naomi Wellings, music specialist Claire Vaughan and carillonneur Trevor Workman for their work on this project.