The Gustavian Weekly

Gustavus Handbell Choirs ring out the year

By Kristi Manning - Staff Writer | May 12, 2017 | variety

Love Disney music and gorgeous melodies? The Gustavus handbell Choir concert might be for you.

Love Disney music and gorgeous melodies? The Gustavus handbell Choir concert might be for you.

The Gustavus Handbell Choirs are preparing for their final concert of the spring.

Auditions for handbells take place each fall, and individuals are placed in a group based on their schedule, interest, and prior experience with handbells.

“There are four groups. This is the largest enrollment that I’ve had in handbells yet. There are 44 members,” Director of the Handbell choirs, Dr. Chad Winterfeldt said.

The four groups include the Disney Bells who are dedicated to performing Disney tunes, the Christ Chapel Ringers who also perform in Christmas in Christ Chapel, Chamber Bells, and the introductory Chapel Bells.

For this concert, the groups will perform pieces that they have been working on all year, in addition to some new repertoire. The most advanced group, Christ Chapel Ringers, performs annually in Christmas in Christ Chapel in addition to playing the prelude or postlude during daily chapel services.

One of the highlighted pieces that the Ringers are excited to perform is “Africa” by Toto, arranged by Winterfeldt. The concert will also feature a piece for two flutes with a handbell choir, as well as a clarinet feature.

The Chamber Bells will be performing “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” The group has seven ringers including Winterfeldt, so each ringer has multiple bells that they need to ring during their pieces.

The famous Disney Bells have been pushing themselves very hard, with challenging and complex music. They will be performing arrangements of “Let it Go” from Frozen and “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas.

Sophomore Communication Studies major Rachel Larson joined handbells in her first year, and has been playing for the past two years. She has enjoyed her time in handbells so far, and is looking forward to this concert.

“I love playing handbells,” Larson said. “It’s so much fun. I’ve met really great, talented people, and we all come from different majors. When you join you’re just welcomed in and it’s a really nice hour to relax on Tuesdays.”

Henry Elling is a senior music major, and has been a part of handbells all of four years here at Gustavus. He previously played at his church before joining as a First-year. He has especially enjoyed working with Winterfeldt in his time performing with Christ Chapel Ringers.

“He’s a great director and he knows what he’s talking about, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously,” Elling said. “We all goof off, but at the same time we know we want to get work done so when we need to start working hard we do, but we joke all the way through it.”

Each group practices for about an hour on Tuesday evenings, and they have been working very hard to prepare for this final performance. Each member is important, and when one person is missing, the whole balance of the piece can be thrown off.

“We all have to work together to create the music, which is different from a lot of other groups,” Elling said. “Everyone is the same amount of importance, because without one person we would lose some of the integrity of the music, because you miss part of the melody or the music.”

The handbell community has created a place where students are able to have fun, while making great music together. “It’s about how much give and take there is with our conversations about the music. We talk about the music, we also talk about the techniques, and it’s comfortable,” Winterfeldt said. They work really hard to get the music up to performance level, and when they do it’s a great accomplishment. “It’s a great pleasure to see the success of all of the work that we do. All of the groups work equally hard,” Winterfeldt said.

Attendees can expect to hear some traditional handbell repertoire, some Disney classics, and a throwback to the 80s with “Africa” by Toto. This concert will provide audiences with a unique musical experience.

“Handbells are a pretty unique ensemble,” Winterfeldt said. “You’d be surprised at how many types of sounds we can create with the bells themselves. We also use mallets, and the regular ringing technique, and other percussive types sounds.”

Anyone who is curious, or interested in an unusual musical experience is encouraged to check out this exciting concert. “Everyone should attend, because they will enjoy the music no matter what. It’s a good break from the day. They will get to hear some Disney, some fun music, and it’s all catchy, and a good time,” Elling said.

The Gustavus Handbell Choirs will be performing on Sun. May 14, at 7:30 p.m. in Christ Chapel.