Starting today, we will feature one handbell ensemble each month on the Area 1 website. There are many talented, dedicated ringers spread throughout Area 1, and they deserve to shine in the spotlight. If you are part of a group and you want to be featured in an upcoming month, please let me know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me a short article about your group, what neat things you’ve done or have scheduled, and a picture or two.
THE HILLS BELLS — WELLESLEY HILLS CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
by Martha Stowell
Ours is a story often heard in handbell circles. The church has a set of bells donated many years earlier in honor of a loved one. They collect dust in a closet and are pulled out only for Christmas and specifically for the Christmas Pageant. Chords or random rings are sounded announcing the arrival of angels after which the bells are put back in the closet for another year. A new congregant arrives from the south, from the Buckle of the Bible Belt, and suggests that an unsuspecting choir member should form a handbell choir for adults. I was that unsuspecting choir member and that was in 2005. I have a degree in music, but had never rung a bell. Little did I know where this would take me. Little did the group know how strong our bonds would become. Ringers have come and gone, but there remains a core of remarkable individuals who will bring you dinner when you are sick, talk with you when you are down, keep your pet if you are in the hospital, or paint your new apartment when you are overwhelmed by a sudden life change forcing you to relocate. We laugh together, we eat together, we support each other, and we have worked at this ringing thing to the point where we have gotten pretty good at it!
Along the way we have gotten support from amazing individuals from the Area I Handbell organization. Griff Gall was the first to respond to a question I put out on the handbell list serve, and unsolicited, volunteered to come to the church several times to help out. When Griff formed the Back Bay Carillon (BBC), my daughter and I joined. What a gift and great opportunity to learn! A few years later, Dan Moore came to help me establish a community handbell group in Wellesley, Copious Notes.
Tremendous support has come from the music director at the Hills Church, John Finney, who encourages us to combine our ringing with the choir, the organ, and other instruments. Support also comes from the congregation as a whole. Last December, in our 8th year of ringing, members of the congregation contributed the needed funds to buy the bottom 4th and 5th octaves of bells. We are blessed.
The handbell community in the region has shared their time and expertise to help us improve our ringing. Members of the Back Bay Ringers came to give us workshops on playing four-in-hand and playing in the battery. They and the BBC have also performed at our church. The Directors Seminar is invaluable. Being an orphan at my first festival conference introduced me to yet more ringers and directors. And many members of The Hills Bells have attended at least one conference.
We have played for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s Celebration of Trees, the Angel Run in Medfield, and have been seen and heard in front of Roche Bros. with the Salvation Army. Besides the “usual” contribution to worship every 6 weeks, we ended last year at our church with a memorable performance of Benjamin Britten’s Noyes Fludde. Britten’s use of handbells was well calculated for stunning effect. [Look for a special article about the Noyes Fludde in an upcoming article.]
This year in Wellesley there will be more ringing, more celebration, and more reason to be very grateful. Come and join in! — Martha Stowell, Director.