The story of the Genoese bell ringers: the association Genova Carillons

Who said that the clock – even in a world of electronic devices – is an unknown tradition? The association Genova Carillons has been operating in the Ligurian capital for thirty years and has gathered bell players of all ages, ready to approach an ancient art, but apparently never gone out of fashion. On Easter Sunday, Monday 18 April, the association will perform a manual bell concert in the sanctuary of Madonna della Guardia, celebrating its 30th birthday and inaugurating a plaque in honor of the founder, the ‘historic’ bell. calls Michele Mantero, recently deceased.

A hidden reality, but one that resists

Valerio Ruggiero, 32, the association’s contact person, explains that the art of ringing with hand bells does not disappear at all, even though almost all churches now use electronic bells: “The bell of the bell no longer exists – he explains. to Genoa – but there are many fans, even very young, it’s a reality that does not disappear, it’s just a little hidden. Since it was born, Genoa Carillons has aimed to make this reality known, we bring manual bell concerts to the venues, we try to carry on the tradition, is a great commitment ”.

There are various associations of bells in Italy, which generally meet in connection with a large gathering once a year. Carillons Genova has 66 members with about 20 young students.

How to ring the bells

The bells are played on a kind of large keyboard, like a kind of piano. Depending on the number of bells (generally in Liguria, from 5 to 14 in the Madonna della Guardia shrine) the keys also change. The latter are then connected by means of mechanisms to the flaps of each bell.

Video: The Genoese bells in action

Today, there are almost only several automatic systems in churches, but one does not exclude the other: it is therefore possible to ring the bells manually as well.

But how are the bells rung? “At home with special metallophones. And then you obviously improvise a lot in the concert, when a motif emerges, you get carried away by the music that tries to stop it in your memory, you go almost completely by ear” Ruggiero explains.

The tradition of Ligurian bell rings

The tradition handed down from Genoa Carillons is the Ligurian bell ringers, different from other regions: “Each territory – continues Ruggiero – has its own way of ringing the bells, but the difference that characterizes Liguria is that on the keyboard the Basses are to the right instead of to the left, hence the opposite of a piano “.

Learning is not so easy: “There are practically no lyrics, there is not a great tradition of music written in this area, so we go by the ear, we pass on this tradition orally, but children who approach this art give us hope .. We recently welcomed a 6 year old student he is excited.In general many bell players start as children I have been passionate about it since I was 2 years old but in my family no one rang the bells, but when I heard them ring, I became silent to listen, it is an innate feeling “.

There are not only religious songs: “One can indulge oneself – Ruggiero concludes – popular traditional songs are also widespread, such as ‘Poppies and Ducks’, ‘The Legend of Piave’ and other melodies specially invented by the bells and spread over time”. The risk of passing them on orally, however, is that important pieces of culture are lost: “We try to approach the young precisely so as not to let this tradition die … But in general, the bell makers are not musicians, they do. Do not read sheet music, so we try to continue this popular tradition without distorting it. ”There are some recordings, especially records dating back to the 60s with Genoa’s bell rings, from which you can draw inspiration: Their plays have all been recycled, in the name of a tradition that, after all, continues to live.

Leave a Comment