Each month, Area 1 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.
In June, the Pine Tree Academy Bell Ringers, 11 students grades 8 through 12, toured Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany and then traversed part of The Netherlands to Brussels, Belgium, for their return flight to the U.S.A. In 20 days of travel our group presented 22 church concerts, 7 school concerts, 2 “old peoples” homes concerts, 1 day care concert, 1 youth camp concert, 1 street concert, and 1 palace plaza concert. According to one of our chaperones, we traveled 4, 483 km (2, 783 miles) on our Finnish bus and sailed an 11 hour ferry crossing from Finland to Sweden plus a short 20 minute ferry crossing from Sweden to Denmark! We traveled with 5 octaves of bells, 5 octaves of choir chimes, 6 tables, and all of the paraphernalia which goes along with touring!
We performed for all levels of schools: elementary, middle school, high school, college, and university, and for people of all ages and from all walks of life. Other venues included churches which live streamed our concerts, cathedrals, a barn, and outside in windy weather.
While in Finland, we were graciously hosted by four of their five handbell choirs. Our first concert of the tour was hosted by Sonus (Finland’s first bell choir, founded in 1990). This concert was scheduled for the evening of our 3:30 p.m. arrival. One case of handbells, the suitcase of music, and a ringer’s personal suitcase did not arrive with us. We were promised that the missing items would be on the 5:30 p.m. plane. So, while we set up in Myyrmäen Kirkko and ate light refreshments, our coach driver returned to the airport, obtained our baggage, and then we played the concert while still wearing our travel attire! As in the other joint concerts, the host bell choir played a few pieces and we played the rest of the concert.
Kide plays five octaves of handbells. This ensemble was formed in the fall of 2007 and is located in the spacious Jyväskylä Lutheran Church. Our joint concert helped swell their fund for a grand piano.
Dolce, of the Kallavesi Lutheran Church in Kuopio, was founded in the fall of 1999. They play a double set of five octaves of bells plus choir chimes. This ensemble consists mostly of undergraduate and graduate music majors and professional musicians. Dolce, Dolce Minores, and our group performed in the historic Syvänniemen Kirkossa.
Newly founded Hups of the Cathedral Church of Turku invited us to play during the noontime communion service. Later that afternoon I conducted a workshop and then at 6:00 p.m. our bell choirs played separately and together at a special anniversary service commemorating 75 years of the Cathedral carillon playing every noontime on the radio. It was also the dedication of their new 4th octave of handbells.
Our coach driver is a friend who has driven us on many European tours. He and his family travel with us, eat the meals we prepare or that are provided for us, stay in our no-cost lodgings (sleeping on mattresses on the floors of churches and schools or staying in private homes). He and his wife, a former Russian tour guide, are our guides for sight-seeing, as well as grocery shopping and currency exchange. We cram as much sightseeing in as possible: Jean Sibelius monument, Helsinki Olympic Stadium, market places, saunas, old towns, castles, Puijo Tower, Sigtuna (oldest town in Sweden), palaces, museums, scenic routes, palaces with the changing of the guard, The Little Mermaid, Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, Thomaskirche Leipzg (Bach’s Church), Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe (second largest waterfall park in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Centre), and more
Our ringers work hard fund raising in order to tour every few years. We have played throughout the United States, in Canada, Bermuda and Iceland. In Europe: Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Russia. In South America: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay.
Due to graduations and students moving, we have never had the entire same group two years in a row. We practice once a week and have a retreat during the school year.