The International Bell Festival day has arrived! The festival itself, though short, was intense, stressful and an incredible memory all at once.

Our team had previously written up a speech about of the Lowell bells that we were to present between two ringings at the festival. Here is the text: Latvia Festival Presentation – The Lowell Bells

The opening ceremony was a religious service for the attendants. However it had a special ending: every ringer participating in the festival (including us) was called up individually to the front to receive roses, a certificate and a salutation from the choir: what an honor!

The Lowell Ringers receive roses and a certificate from the priests during the opening ceremony

After the ceremony, we assembled in the bell tower, the program at the front of our minds so that we would be ready when it was our turn to ring.

The crowd assembling, viewed from the bell tower

The peals themselves were extremely tight and well performed. Father Roman had the honor of ringing the first peal, and then every ringer went in turn, playing alone or as a team.

Father Roman rings his peal

We were to perform three peals ourselves (with Father Roman’s help for the last two): the Akimovsky peal, the “Godunovsky” peal (inspired by the coronation scene in Mussorgsky’s opera “Boris Godunov”), and the Lowell House favorite, Beatiful Rostov.

I pose, pretending to ring alone (we rung our peals as a group!)

There was a little catch to the otherwise extremely well organised program: the presentations given between the ringings were translated orally into Russian (spoken by most of the attendants) and Latvian (required by law)! Since the speakers had been given “15 minutes,” this made some talks last for a very long while indeed.

So when our turn came, we drastically abridged our speeches, but the translators still had the long version… Well, we did what we could. We ended by showing a video of Noam Elkies playing “Carmina Burana” on the Lowell Bells: you don’t hear orchestral music on Russian bells just anywhere!

A screen shows a live footage of the ringers, while the podium is used for presentations

There also was a set of practice bells on a rack outside for the public to try out. We used even those bells during the finale: most of the participants played together then, so it was getting a little crowded upstairs!

Alex is interviewed by the Latvian press, with the practice bells in the background


The festival was followed by a very fancy buffet, attended by the ringers, priests, the organisers, and donors that all together made this cross-cultural event possible.

The buffet, before we take our seats

After the buffet we spent time talking about the experience and slowly started to say goodbye to those having to catch a plane: most of the ringers were leaving that very day. I hope we get to ring bells with them again in the near future!

Oleg dips his feet in the water on our last night

In the evening, the few of us that remained went with Father Roman to celebrate the festival’s success at night on the beach. Then was some singing, drinking, snacking, and toe-dipping in the Baltic sea: I wouldn’t have wanted our stay in Latvia to end in any other way.


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