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URDMURT REPUBLIC, RUSSIA,   JUNE 11, 2004,  10-10:45PM

 

During the week prior to Patrick Hazell's production of his first HAWKEYE VALLEY BELL PROJECT, in Burlington, Iowa, a cultural exchange group from the Udmurt Republic in Russia happened to be visiting town. Sponsored by IREX (International Research and Exchange Board), included in the group were two of Udmurtia's most famous folk musicians, Nadia Utkina and Sergey Kungurov. During that week, Hazell was introduced to them and they became quick friends and even performed together at a local concert hall, the Blue Shop. The Udmurtians were very interested in this Bell Project of Hazell's and proposed that sometime in the future he come to Udmurtia and stage a bell ringing in Izhevsk, a city of 700,000 people and the capitol of the Udmurt Republic--approximately 600 miles east from Moscow.

So, over time Hazell kept in contact, and things did manage to come together to travel to Izhevsk in November 2003, where he performed in concert with his Udmurtian friends, presented University workshops and lectures, and did the preliminary work for presenting a bell project. This entailed checking out the bell sites: two Russian Orthodox Cathedrals, and an 18th Century armaments factory that has a bell tower erected when Napoleon was defeated by the Russians in 1812. Unlike the single bells in the Burlington sites, each of these Russian sites had multiple bells: eleven in one, five in another, and nine in the third. Plus, the buildings were farther apart in a city 30 times larger. This presented challenges. But, the Udmurtian press was active and it was widely announced that Hazell would be back in the late Spring of 2004 to present a bell concert in Izhevsk.

Through the winter of 2003-2004, Hazell read Russian history, politics, and folk tales; listened to Russian music of all kinds, while he carefully weighed in all the factors involved in ringing the bells of Izhevsk as well as recording and video-taping the experience. On May 31, he left again for Izhevsk, and the Bell ringing was staged on Friday, June 11, 2004 from 10-10:45 PM as part of the Russian Independence Day festivities and the Day of the City of Izhevsk.

The ring was highly successful. Some observers felt it was symbolic of a new age in Udmurt. Hazell, along with his associates, Nadia and Sergey, were awarded Thankyou Letters from Victor Balakin, the Mayor of the City of Izhevsk for their "innovative interactive cultural project." Hazell's bell ringing score was framed and hung in the state museum. There was considerable media coverage of all kinds from radio, magazine, tabloid, and television, including an interview of Hazell with scenes taken during the bell ringing that was broadcast from Moscow on television throughout Russia and the former Soviet empire.

Hazell also learned during this second tour that a large and growing interest in revitalizing bell ringing in Russia, which had a very long and ancient tradition that had been suppressed by the communists during the 20th Century. This added much weight to the bell project's success in Izhevsk. It also helps lay the foundation for Hazell's continued involvement in Russia in the future.

Mixed in with the bell ringing is Hazell's developing interest in Udmurtian culture and folk traditions. The Udmurts are a minority group with their own Finno-Ugric language, physical, and cultural attributes. They preceded the Russian and Slavic peoples by thousands of years. Thus one of Hazell's long time dreams of experiencing the music traditions of ethnic cultures has become a reality that continues to grow. What a journey! And, it all started with simply wanting to hear the bells ring in Burlington!