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Why bells, and why Russian bells?

That was the reaction at St Spiridon’s Orthodox Cathedral in Seattle— our 10th client— when it got its first genuine Russian bell in the year 2000. Not surprisingly, they came back for more.

Seattle City Council

We got into the bell business in 1998 when Fr Stephan Meholick of St Nicholas Orthodox Church in San Anselmo, California asked us to help bring the first set of Russian bells to this country in nearly a century. After getting that first set, and then another one, we realized there was a need and a desire for “the real thing”. Thus we began operating under the name  “Blagovest Bells“, which we thought was fitting because “Blagovest” is Russian both for “good news” and for the first bell that announces the church services.

“Blagovest” is Russian both for “good news” and for the first bell that announces the church services.

Fr Stephan had been into bells for years— he’s actually an award-winning ringer and a master musician. He got really excited when he heard Russia was making bells again. So he found some donors, we worked out the connections, and after four different additions, St Nicholas now has a complete set of eleven Russian bells ranging from 7 up to 3000 pounds. You can hear them from time to time if you’re in the neighborhood— the neighbors love them. That’s even true of the neighbor whose bedroom window is only 40 feet away, and St Spiridon’s bells were featured in a presentation to the Seattle City Council as a strong reason why the neighborhood’s historic charm should be preserved!

We can import bells of up to 30 tons

We can import bells of up to 30 tons from any firm in Russia, but we rely mainly on three, because of their experience and the particular qualities of their bells: Pyatkov & Co., a foundry in the Ural Mountains, Vera LLC of Voronezh, and ODMK, an offshoot of ZIL, the former Soviet automobile company. They all make excellent bells— some say they sound better even than the historic ones at Holy Trinity Cathedral on Green Street in San Francisco.

Bell-ringing has made a dramatic comeback in Russia since Perestroika, in the late 1980s. Starting with a few bells cast in 1995, the output of each of several Russian foundries now surpasses that of all European bell-makers put together.

Individual virtuosity is encouraged. It’s a living art, and a living tradition. Each tower has its own master, and each player, a personal touch.