THE HISTORY OF THE CHAPEL RINGERS
Diane Ennis is a dedicated pillar of the Berkley Community Church. A member of the church all of her life, Diane continues to work tirelessly as secretary and main “pivot” of the church: organizing summer school activities for children, arranging, with dedicated volunteers for meals for homeless and shut-ins at holiday times (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter), director of the Sunday school, and in short has her finger on the pulse of all of the church activities.
In 2006, the members of the Berkley Congregational Church decided to honor Diane and surprise her with a set of 2-octive Schulmerich handbells for the church. Diane had expressed an interest in having handbells at the church and arrangements were made for Schulmerich handbell representative, Sue Chamberlain, to make a presentation to the church members while Diane was away on vacation. Since no one at the church knew anything about handbells, they invited me to attend the presentation to see what I thought. I am not a member of the church, but Berkley is a small community and someone knew that I rang handbells with Second Half Lifelong Learning. Sue made a wonderful presentation and the handbells were purchased! Wonderful – except that although Diane expressed an interest in handbells, she had never even held one!
So, with no experience with handbells, and with absolutely no musical background, Diane also joined Second Half Lifelong Learning to learn as much about handbells as she could. The first Berkley Church choir (named the Chapel Ringers) had about 6 ringers. And while my husband, Cris, and I, were not members of the church, we joined to fill out the choir (Cris also rang with Second Half).
Through the years, Diane has done much through attending New England and Massachusetts handbell conferences and taking private music classes to educate herself in music and handbell techniques. I remember when we went to the first Spring Ring, Diane had only rung handbells for 2 months.
Over the past 8 years members of the church joined and left the bell choir. Like everything in life, things grow and change. I believe that for many choir directors the challenge is to get and to keep ringers in the choir. Berkley is not unique in that. At times, the Chapel Ringers are joined by members of Second Half bell ringers for outdoor or larger concerts; and we join together in one choir to attend the MA Spring Ring and the New England Handbell conference.
In the past several years, Diane realized the way to continue to grow the bell choir is to bring in children who love music. She started a children’s handbell choir. Again, with the demand this day on children’s and parent’s time, hard to sustain a separate children’s choir in a small church. So Diane combined both choirs. The newest Chapel Ringers members are brothers: Aidan (age 11) and Nathaniel (age 9) Pollock. And they are both terrific ringers!
So this year, our bell choir spans more than 3 generations with Nathaniel (age 9) on one end, and Cris (age 80) on the other. Sprinkled in between are Allison (16) and the rest from 40+ to 70+.
Given the span of ages, in this regard, I believe that the Berkley Congregational Church Chapel Ringers is one of the most unique bell choirs in the area – possibly in all of New England….or at least we are trying to find out. Do you ring with a multigenerational choir? We would love to hear from you. It would be fun to get our choirs together.
Marge Ghilarducci, Berkely, MA
“I feel special because I am the youngest” – Nathaniel Pollock, age 9
“Ditto on what Nathaniel said, but because I am the oldest” – Cris Ghilarducci, age 80