McCrady with the practice keyboard in her office. (Photo: Ben Powless/Canadian Geographic)
On keeping the bells ringing
There is a point in the next decade where the carillon will be silent. We hope only for a short period of time. Like the rest of Centre Block, the carillon and the Peace Tower are due for some major maintenance. The carillon has been silent twice before in its 92-year history: for two years from 1980 to 1982 when they were renovating the inside of the tower, and again from 1995 to 1997, when they were renovating the tower’s external masonry. Leading up to 2026, there may be a period of time when it’s silent. But the House of Commons has made it very clear that the carillon will be played live on July 1, 2027, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Peace Tower and the carillon.
On making mistakes
Everything is very public on the Peace Tower carillon — from the moment I strike the key, it’s live outside. I always tell my students that the most important note after you make a mistake is the next one. Just keep going. If you stop, then everybody knows you made a mistake. A musician is lying to you if they say, “Oh, I just played that perfectly.” Nothing is ever perfect. It makes me nervous at times. I suffer from constant imposter syndrome — what the heck am I doing in this job? The people who came before me were such amazing players, I’m really humbled.
On becoming a Canadian citizen
There was a media feeding frenzy the moment I arrived in November 2008. I got several questions, but number one was always, “You’re an American, how come an American is playing the Peace Tower?” When the previous dominion carillonneur announced his retirement, initially there was a local competition to find the next one, but no qualified Canadians applied. So, they extended the search worldwide, which is how I heard about it and won the competition. I became a Canadian citizen on Canada Day during Canada’s 150th. I had told everyone my dream was to play my program on Canada Day, descend the Peace Tower and swear in on the stage at Parliament Hill. And I did just that.
Watch: McCrady demonstrates how to play the carillon and shares insights into her unusual career