The last stretch of our Bell Ringing Tour is here!

After breakfast at the hotel, we were whisked away to the St Nicholas Cathedral where tomorrow’s bell ringing festival was to take place, right near the Baltic sea.

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The newly renovated St Nicholas Church appears amid the trees

We had a whole team of ringers in the van, all brought here by Father Roman. Over the course of these couple of days, we all got acquainted and learned a lot from these ringers. There were 14 of us total, plus two guides:

  • Peter, Alex and I, the three Lowell bell ringers
  • Jeffrey, an American carillon ringer living in Berlin
  • Yaroslav, a music critic living who learned ringing in Novgorod
  • Elena, a lady ringer from Minsk
  • Oleg and Gregory, ringers from a huge belfry north of Moscow
  • Marat, a musician from St. Petersburg
  • Two nuns from Riga, Latvia
  • Andrei, from the Nice Cathedral in France (close to where I live!)
  • The priest (who took care of logistics for the festival)
  • Father Roman: the man who made it all happen!

A crew from all over the world, joined by the passion of bell ringing!

Here is the provisional program for the next two days: The programme of the Festival

We are whisked away to the cathedral. The organiser presents its history as we enter the huge hall and climb up the stairs to the belfry, still partially covered in rickety scaffolds.

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The Bell Tower of the St. Nicholas Cathedral, with view on the Baltic Sea

Each ringing team then had ample time to practice their peals for the performance tomorrow. This is probably the most ringing I have heard in one sitting (I have almost 40 minutes of video footage and was only filming excerpts).

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The Bell Ringing “Cockpit,” here manipulated by a virtuoso ringer from Moscow
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Father Roman chats with Jeffrey, a American carilloner in Berlin, while the nuns ring in the background

After the practice and a bit of roaming around the elevated gallery (where one can German tags in the paint from the 1940s), we are taken on a short tour of Liepaja : brick factory buildings, ingenious bridge mechanisms, and most of all, the baltic seaside.

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The coast by the Baltic Sea
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The group walks back

Later that afternoon we had a second round of practice at the cathedral before wrapping up at the hotel for a nice group dinner.

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Ringers from Moscow and St Petersburg practice bell ringing together
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Andrei from Nice tries out his peal

On a whim, some of us congregated on the beach later than night. By a stroke of luck there was a professional tenor singer among us: him and Father Roman bass voice improvised some harmonies on popular Russian songs!

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The group assembles on the beach at night
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