Europe is Ringing!

There are many cultural aspects through Europe that the diverse communities share. And bell ringing is one of those. There exist a lot of different traditions in what we understand about bell ringing, but still all Europe shares the fact that we continue ringing these musical instruments, the bells.

Bell ringings are the expression of the major common feelings that a community has and shares. Times of joy and times of mourning are accompanied by the sound of the bells. The community also is kept noticed by the sound of bells and there is a different sound landscape for each daily, weekly, monthly, yearly cycles. Also the distinction of the festivities and celebrations are also marked by different bell ringings. Therefore, we are handing with a complex, unlimited and local language which is unidentical from place to place, and is so dissimilar from country to country.

Society has changed. We have now other media to be noticed and to share our interests and motivations, and also our moods. Technology has became one of the main ways to do it. Also technological advances have appeared to the world of bell ringing. Lots of bells toll automatically and lots of bell towers are now controlled by computers that maintain the ringings, or some of them. Sometimes these electric ringing do not re-create the original and traditional sounds. The original language (alive for centuries) disappears unfortunately.

The traditional figure of the bell ringer, is almost faded away from our towns, villages and cities. In most cases the engines have substituted the hand of the people. The difference is obvious and the resulting chimes also.

In the other hand it is an increasing number of communities which have decided to keep the manual ringing, to arrange ringing calendars and organize groups of people who are learning and who become committed to the task of ringing each week, each festivity. They do research to recover the original ringings, the local ones. A large number of those groups have existed since time ago and new ones are still emerging, all of them with the same sense, keeping the tradition of bell ringing alive.

Some communities have recognized their ringings as heritage, as a legacy worthy to keep and being enjoyed. New restoration models have been suggested to keep the original installation that determines the way the bells could be ringed. And new electrifications, which are less invasive, could reproduce the local ringings, although they will never ring as people do.

While having this panorama, it exists a willing ,and maybe a need, to have a common platform and a common space to share all the experiences and working patterns of all those groups, associations and volunteers who are in charge of nowadays ringing across Europe. Sharing the experiences in working plans, calendars, restoration guidelines, research programs and educational methodologies could be the main purposes for a new cultural movement in european bell ringing.

Europe is ringing is presented now as an interlocutor for all those local or regional groups of bell ringers. Let’s work on sharing the experiences and the working procedures in order to improve this cultural manifestation of the people for the people.

MARTÍNEZ ROIG, Eliseo

Intangible Cultural Heritage Manager & Campanologist

Europe is Ringing! (16-03-2015)

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