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A Centuries Old Sound of Bells

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Churches are among the most common sights in Slovenia; they add a picturesque note to towns, the tops of remote hills, and everywhere in between. Many of these churches are also the home of a musical tradition that has been passed on from generation to generation.

The exact origin of Slovenian bell chiming – known as “pritrkovanje” – is unknown, but there is plenty of evidence that expert chimers have practiced their skill for centuries.

The chimers create music by using ropes to sway the bells, by moving the clapper in a rhythmic fashion, and by striking the bell itself with hammers. According to tradition, bell chiming can only be performed in church towers with at least two bells. After years of practice, expert chimers are able to combine the sounds to create harmonious music. Their approaches tend to be very personal, with some placing a greater emphasis on the melody, and others choosing to worry more about the rhythm. The rules, which state how the bells are used to produce the music, aren’t uniform either; they are different in Slovenian Istria than in the inland parts of the country.

Wherever it’s performed, however, chiming is a very Slovenian form of music. Similar traditions are found in nearby countries, but they are rarely as well-organized as in Slovenia. To this day, chimers across the country participate in clubs dedicated to this tradition. For many, the gatherings serve as an opportunity not just to talk bout their passion for chiming, but also to discuss their faith. The chimers even have their own patron saint: St. Forchern of Trim in Ireland.

The Church also organizes classes for bell chimers, as well as workshops where veterans can pass on their knowledge and creativity to the younger generations – keeping a Slovenian tradition alive for generations to come.

Source: RTVSLO.si | Jaka Bartolj

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