The carillon in the Oslo City Hall’s bell tower has long been a traditional part of daily life in the Norwegian capital, chiming on the quarter-hour and also playing an occasional concert. Now the classic chimes seem to have fallen out of tune with some of City Hall’s neighbours, who find them disturbing.
“We hear the bells every 15 minutes,” one man working in the finance business nearby told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday. He claimed that he and his colleagues are constantly disturbed while speaking on the phone, holding meetings or simply trying to concentrate.
“We can laugh about it,” he continued, “but it actually is very irritating.” He didn’t want to be identified in Aftenposten’s article, fearing repercussions on the firm where he works.
Others were more forthcoming, with Runar Buvik of the company Searchdiamond, which also has offices close to City Hall, calling it “very irritating” that the carillon sounds off every 15 minutes and that the bell-ringer in the tower also plays a concert at least once a week.
“It may be charming for the tourists, but for us, it’s difficult when we’re trying to have meetings,” Buvik told Aftenposten.
Laura Marie Olseng, who recently took over as the musician playing the carillon in the City Hall (Rådhuset)’s tower, noted that the bells are located in an open tower and that the sound they make can be heard differently depending on wind direction and nearby facades. “It can be that the bells are louder for some than others,” Olseng said.
She defended the carillon tradition of occasional concerts, generally held in Oslo at 1pm on Wednesdays and featuring what she called “informal” programs with both classic and popular music, often seasonally appropriate or timely. When Norway’s Alexander Rybak won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009, for example, the carillon played his winning song Fairytale. “And in general, I think folks who are sensitive to such things maybe shouldn’t live in a city,” Olseng said.
At the nearby offices of labour organization Unio, the response to the chimes and concerts is only positive. “I think it’s just fantastic,” Signy Svendsen of Unio told Aftenposten. “It puts a special atmosphere over downtown.” The only problem she’s encountered was that she’d chosen a ring tone for her mobile phone that sounded too much like the carillon bells, so that caused her some confusion.