Hand Bell and Chime Choir concert Sunday

Concert March 5 at 3 p.m., come one, come all!
Tue, 02/28/2023 - 2:00pm

Story Location:
125 Townsend Avenue
Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538
United States

Handbells, according to https://handbells.org.uk, originated in England during the 1700s. Moving forward a few centuries, many a young girl first heard handbell-like music when they opened up that first jewelry box with a magical ballerina.

The hand bell and chimes choir of Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor began in 2013. Ten years later, it is as popular as ever under the direction of Jamie Knobloch. The ringers and chimers are Cathy and Richard Shepard, Ginger Rickeman, Gloria and Jack Miller, Jeanne Fenton, Jon Dunsford, Judy Shepard, Kathy Malatesta, Lee Corbin, Pat Yetman and Sue Goodrich.

You may have heard the hand bells and chimes in churches, at least that’s the case for most of the musicians in this hand bell and chimes choir. Many started out playing in church, others out of curiosity, and still others were drafted into the choir because they were family. Exceptions to first exposure to hand bells would be Knobloch and sister Ginger Rickeman who first heard them when their mother played in a church choir.

Rickeman is not the only family member in this handbell choir; Knobloch turned it into a family affair. “I dragged my sister, sister-in-law, cousin, cousin-in-law into the group,” Knobloch said, to choir members’ laughter.

Judy Shepard, the sister-in-law, said she was recruited, but found she really enjoys playing.

Goodrich played at a former church and when she heard there was a choir at the Congo, she was ready! “It’s good brain training. It keeps you working. You just need to know how to count.”

Gloria Miller joined three years ago. “I can’t sing, but I figured I could count!” Her husband Jack joined because he saw how much fun she was having and wanted to have some, too.

“I was one of the ones dragged in,” Lee Corbin said as the choir laughed. “It’s fun, but I’m still learning and I sometimes still ring the wrong bells. Chimes are easier and they ring easier than the bells. But, I’m loving it and counting constantly.”

Another member, Cathy Shepard, said you do not need to be able to read music to play handbells or chimes, “you just need to know how to count.”

Pat Yetman played in a church before coming to Boothbay Harbor. She noted how much fun they all had. “Rehearsals are fun – playing in front of the congregation is a little nerve-wracking!”

Knobloch said it is important for bell choirs to have two or three subs. In this choir, Kathy Malatesta is one of them. She has been playing for 20 years starting out in the Dover-Foxcroft church she attended.

Jeanne Fenton, who played at a Massachusetts church before coming here, said Knobloch has them playing more challenging music with different movements. “And, today’s rehearsal not withstanding, she’s (Knobloch) usually very nice to us!” More laughter from her fellow ringers – and director.

At this point, the members consider themselves pretty much like family, and many are since they are Knobloch’s relations! The group plays once a month for the church with smaller groups of ringers playing a few other dates in between. All of the music is written for four, eight or 12 bells.

Handbell choirs can be 12-plus musicians, playing any number of bells to scale two octaves (25 bells) and up to eight octaves (97 bells). Most of this choir have four bells before them – and chimes nearby.

The Congo Church Hand Bell Choir will perform the following works at the March 5 concert: “All Creatures of Our God and King” arrangement by Kevin McChesney; “What Wondrous Love is This” arrangement by Susan E. Geschke; “Morning Has Broken” arrangement by Linda R. Lamb; “Bwana Awabariki” arrangement by Susan T. Nelson; “Adagio,” arrangement by Malcolm C. Wilson; and “Celebration Fanfare” by Ron Mallory. Following the intermission: “Christus Paradox” arrangement by Alfred V. Fedak; “Handbell” arrangement by Kirk Townander. A demonstration of techniques will be followed up with: “My Shepherd’s Amazing Grace” arrangement by Karissa Dennis; “Ah, Holy Jesus” arrangement by Terry Osman; and “I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” arrangement by Tammy Waldrop.

Free-will donations will be gratefully accepted to support the Boothbay Region Community Resource Council program, Food For Thought, which helps alleviate childhood food insecurity in the Boothbay region.

Interested in joining the choir, even if you’re not a family member? Speak with Knobloch after the performance.

Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor is at 125 Townsend Ave. in Boothbay Harbor. There is plenty of parking behind the church, on Eastern Avenue.