Rutland Handbell Choir In Its 26th Year

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(Host) There are few sounds that capture the holiday season as beautifully or as emotionally as bells.  The Bells of Joy Handbell choir has been performing holiday concerts in Rutland for 26 years. Thirteen women play 60 bells and assorted chimes and drums. 

VPR’s Nina Keck spent time with the group and prepared this report. 

(Karen James)  "I’m Karen James and I’m the director of the Rutland United Methodist Church Handbell Choir.   We call ourselves the Bells of Joy Handbell chorus – because it’s a lot of fun to play these bells."

(Bell song sounds) 

(James)   "The first thing I like to teach people when they learn how to ring a bell is the circular motion that you need to pull the sound out of the bell   If you just ring a straight sound bell it just sounds like a dead ring.  But since it’s a visual art as well as an aural art, if you actually physically move the b ell around in a circular  motion the bell actually moves in a circular motion the sound of the bell moves round in the air and it’ gives more depth to the sound." 

(bell music)   

(James)  "The hardest part about bell ringing is finding your one or two or three or four notes on that page of music and playing them at the right time.   And if you’re playing together it’s even more difficult to play them all at the same time.  So the hardest thing is to make it sound like a legato smooth melody instrument."

(bell music)   

(James)  "Because it’s a percussive instrument -we have lots of different ways to make short sounds – which we call stop sounds.   We can play them with a mallet (plays sample) or we can kind of mush it into the foam so the foam deadens the sound as soon as you hit it.   Or You can pluck it which means grabbing the clapper and throwing it down.    (sample sound)   Lots of different ways to make short sounds."

(bell music sounds) 

(Bobbi Fillioe)    "I’m Bobbi Fillioe and I live in West Rutland.  I love the different techniques – the different pace.  We played one song a few years ago with a steel drum.  You can do so much with the bells.  With the chimes with the different techniques – I just love it."

(Pat Pranger)   "My name is Pat Pranger.  I’m from Wallingford.       They’re the big ones – they’re quite heavy too.  This one weighs about 14 pounds."

(Gongs the bell.)

(Keck)    "So, do you get tired?"

(Pranger) "Yes and at the beginning when you’re starting it’s quite arduous because you’re trying to get the timing and a lot of it is timing that we all are playing on the same wavelength as it were.  But as it comes together and you start hearing the melody and you’re not furiously just counting, you can start hearing the others.   Then it is – we’re making music and I love it because it’s togetherness, it’s a group, it’s one endevour." 

(Silent night is played)

(James)  ‘When I look out at the audience and see people getting emotionally involved in this and pulling out the tissues and wiping their eyes It’s just a wonderful feeling that we’re sharing the spirit. 

(Fillio)  "They seem to be in awe of the sound.  I have friends who come every year and they say it is the beginning of Christmas when we hear the handbell concert."

(Silent night vocals begin) 

(Host)   VPR’s Nina Keck prepared that report.

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