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West St. Paul, Minnesota

How we use our handbells

Since we have the potential of some 80 handbells to ring and use only one handbell choir, some explanation may be necessary as to how we do this.

We have developed our own system based upon a philosophy that includes:

We like to include all people that would like to ring handbells in a "non-competitive" situation (no best choir, middle choir, training choir, etc.)

We like the ideas of ringing together instead of ringing in separate choirs (which tends to separate ringers socially and musically)

"New ringers" learn faster when there is a skilled ringer there to help and guide them.

"Substitute ringers" are always at rehearsal and always know the music to be performed.

Our system includes what I call "double-ringing" of each handbell part.
There is a skilled ringer assigned to each of the handbell parts and additional ringers are assigned to double with them (play the same handbell part).

The result is more of a massed choir effect but allows a fuller sound (and more people) for processionals or enhancement of congregational hymns.

The ringers work together on everything and have comraderie with each other and support for each other.

The total sound of the handbell choir may vary since not all parts are doubled all the time. When a ringer is absent, the part is rung by a single ringer. When both ringers on a part have to be absent, a ringer from another part (that already know the musical selections) will play the part of the absent ringers.

Handbell "purists" can find many problems with this system (among them, the mixture of Schulmerich and Malmark handbell sounds, the lack of cleanness when inexperienced ringers play with experienced ringers, the inconsistency of some part being doubled while other parts are not doubled, etc.) but we have found that it is a system that works for a church choir (not a concert handbell ensemble). We support each other and ring for worship services.

Any questions, comments, or discussion may be sent to Kyle Thomas

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Since 6 Dec 99

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