Handbell Choir performs spring concert including film scores


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The bells rang out songs including samples from “Lord of the Rings”

The Bob Jones University Division of Music presented a special concert April 3 in which 13 Handbell Choir ringers brought beautiful melodies to life with the bright, cheery sound produced only by a handbell. The atmosphere of this performance differed significantly from that of a string or brass orchestra. While the ringers were dressed in black, the lighting was fairly bright, and the visual aspects of the performance complemented the rich sound of the ensemble.  

Deanna Gardner, the director, introduced each piece, and altogether nine works were presented. The composers were all 20th-century composers, and the four who are still alive were born in the ‘40s and ‘50s. The program included easily recognizable soundtracks from major film series, such as The Lord of the Rings and Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as lesser-known works.  

One of the most thrilling pieces was the acclaimed Pirates of the Caribbean, composed by Hanz Zimmer and arranged by Kevin McChesney. The genius of these composers was complemented by the teamwork of the handbell players and Rachel McKnight on the marimba. The movements of the 13 ringers added a visual element to the staccato beat of the song. The tropical accent of the piece was uniquely captured by the percussion, while the chests of gold were proclaimed by the tenor handbells.  

A number of ringers that evening were seniors, and Gardner was thrilled to give them special recognition. A big part of that occurred during the seventh piece in the program, as Matthew Zockoll debuted as director for Laudation by Arnold B. Sherman. Student and teacher exchanged places for this piece, and Zockcoll did a masterful job at uniting the ringers to play this vibrant piece.  

Handbell choirs are a relatively new phenomenon in the United States, having been first established in the 1920s. Over the last 30 years, they have increased in popularity, and their bright sound particularly welcomes the holidays across the country. Bells originated in ancient China, where they were a significant part of daily traditions and culture. The concept of attaching a handle to the bell can be traced back to certain Chinese artifacts, and developed throughout the western world, until finally the English ushered the development of bells and handbells into the modern era.  

Today, handbell choirs are unique musical ensembles that glorify God with their cheery sound.