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Home > Articles > Campanelli Handbell Ensemble of Estonia

Campanelli Handbell Ensemble of Estonia
Susan T. Nelson

Help Bring Campanelli Handbell Ensemble from Estonia to the USA!

Campanelli Handbell Ensemble, an adult community/professional ensemble, was founded by conductor, Inna Lai, February 2005. They perform on 5 octaves of Malmark handbells, 6 octaves of Malmark handchimes, and a set of Cymbells®. The group is based at the Nõmme Kultuurikeskus in Tallinn, Estonia. Campanelli generated so much interest that Inna was asked to form a group for young ringers. KellaRing Youth Ensemble, a feeder choir for elementary to middle school aged students, was founded that same year. KellaRing Concert Ensemble was formed shortly thereafter in 2007. It is an advanced community choir comprised of musicians from high school through college. The Chamber Choir is another offshoot of Campanelli that was established in 2007. This choral ensemble performed in the famous “Estonian Song Festival” in 2009 and 2014. Inna also founded two community ensembles at the Kiili School for the Arts: the Killi Youth Ensemble and Grazioso, which is an adult choir.

 A graduate of the Estonian Academy of Music, Inna holds master’s degrees in Music Education and Choral and Orchestral Conducting. She has toured extensively throughout Europe and Russia as a handbell soloist and with her five handbell ensembles. She and Campanelli have appeared on TV and radio numerous times, and Inna has introduced handbell ringing to Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and parts of Germany.

 I met Inna in 2010 when she sent me a private message on Facebook: “Greetings from Estonia!” She said that Campanelli had performed and recorded a lot of my music. We had a grand time talking and found we had much in common. (Fortunately, her English is much better than my Estonian!) I learned later that year they played my arrangement of the “Brian Boru March” for Rocca al Mare’s TV Christmas commercial.

 We remained in contact, and she invited me to Tallinn in October 2013 to attend a concert entirely of my music. I was both humbled and overjoyed, as it is perhaps the greatest honor a composer can receive! This “Sue’s Blues” concert also served as my M.M. recital for the University of Valley Forge, making it the first international graduate handbell composition recital. The performance was supported by my nearly 200 page thesis entitled “A Ringing Evolution: An International Graduate Composition Recital.” The performance took place on October 15, 2013 at Mustpeade Maja, located in Tallinn’s historic “Old Town.” It is one of the oldest concert halls in Estonia.

 This 2013 Facebook collaboration was chronicled in the documentary film, “Unes või ilmsi” (“Dreaming wide awake”) by producer Anneli Ahven of Kopli Kinokompanii. It premiered at the Artis Cinema theatre in Tallinn, was released on DVD in 2014, and has appeared on Estonian and Russia TV many times. Kopli is sending a film crew to the USA with Campanelli in 2017 to do a sequel to the first film.

 Inna and I dreamed of bringing this concert to the USA, and we are doing so July 17-31, 2017. This “Sue’s Blues Too” concert will feature original compositions by noted Estonian composers Juhan Aavik, Raimond Valgre, Liis Viira, and Inna, in addition to my works. Each of the four concerts will feature local professional solo instrumentalists, so each performance will be a unique, different experience. Concert information and links about this project are listed below:

 Estonian House, 243 E 34th St, New York, NY 10016, Friday, July 21, 2017, 7:00 pm

Our Lady of Sorrows, 3816 East State St. Ext., Hamilton, NJ 08619 - Sunday, July 23, 2017, 7:00 pm

St. Paul Lutheran Church, 130 Cable Avenue, Beachwood, NJ 08722 - Tuesday, July 25, 2017, 7:00 pm

Malmark Sponsored Concert, Friday, July 28, 2017, 7:00 pm, venue TBA


Hamilton Post newspaper story about the collaboration:

2017 Tour info:

Documentary film (in Estonian):

To make a donation:

TV commercial for Rocca al Mare featuring Campanelli:

Campanelli’s website:

My website:

 Estonia is a musician’s dream come true. Their love of the arts can be seen by the many monuments to writers, artists and musicians found throughout the country. The “Laulupidu” (“Estonian Song Festival”) is a choral extravaganza that dates back to 1869 and is now held every five years at the Song Festival Grounds in Tallinn. Choral music is an integral part of Estonia’s cultural identity. It preserved their music, history, language, traditions, customs, and national identity during hundreds of years of foreign rule and was the vehicle that led to their independence in 1991. This is a country that literally sang themselves free from Soviet occupation. The series of public musical protests that began in Estonia during the 1980s became known as “The Singing Revolution.” The movement grew and spread to neighboring Baltic countries. At one point, a human chain of millions of singers stretched from Estonia all the way through Lithuania!

The country’s commitment to music is evident in their education system. Music is a required subject in public and private schools for twelve years. Children in elementary grades take two music classes per week, while middle through high school students take at least one class per week. Elementary school children go on field trips to workshops offered by cultural centers to enrich and broaden their musical education.

 I was lucky to participate in the “Let's Make Music” workshop at the Parnu Concert Hall during my stay in Estonia. It was a wonderful event that sported five unique, highly creative classes: African drumming, body music, environmental music, handbells, and kannel (a traditional Estonian instrument). The children registered in advance for the morning or afternoon session. They were bussed in from various schools to attend the class of their choice. They performed for an audience of their peers in the auditorium and were bussed back to their schools after lunch. The whole thing repeated in the afternoon with a new bunch of students. No wonder Estonia has produced such gifted composers and performers with this kind of training!

 Even the sand sings in Estonia. Walking on the beaches on Laulasmaa and Ruhnu islands produces a whistling sound akin to a violin. It is a great example of environmental music!

 Susan T. Nelson