The Gustavus Handbell Ensemble will be ringing in the summer spirit this Sunday, May 13 in Christ Chapel at 7:30 p.m.
Known across campus for their delightful editions to Christmas in Christ Chapel and various chapel services, their annual spring concert is a fantastic way to highlight their skills as the main attraction and share their gifts with fellow Gusties who may be looking for a stress-reliever as finals approach.
President of the Gustavus Handbell Ensemble, Senior Olivia Niles, has been playing since her first year at Gustavus.
“I have always been interested in handbells,” Niles said. “I actually missed the first audition because of a piano lesson and had to email [Director Chad Winterfeldt] to get an audition.
“But I am so happy I did because Handbells is such a special group. While we’re working really hard to make music, it doesn’t feel as intense as other music-making opportunities. We enjoy hanging out and making musical projects together.”
Junior Elizabeth Neuenfeldt has always been interested in handbells as well, but didn’t start pursuing her dream until the 2017-2018 school year.
“I’ve always wanted to join, but nothing quite fell into place.” Neuenfeldt said.
“This fall however, I was walking past the chapel and saw auditions were happening that very same day, two minutes from that moment. So I walked in and auditioned and the rest is history.”
With so many students interested in handbells, there are currently three active ensembles on campus.
The Christ Chapel Bells, the Disney Handbells, and the Christ Chapel Ringers meet with Director Chad Winterfeldt on Tuesday nights, usually on top of other music commitments, in order to follow their passion for ringing.
Recently, these groups blended together for their Minnesota tour where they performed in churches across the state.
The tour encompassed Macalester’s Plymouth United Church under the guidance of Gustie alumni Emily Rudquist and Bethlehem Lutheran under the guidance of Gustie alumni David Lim, both handbell ringers from their Gustavus days.
On Sunday’s concert this group will unite to perform their favorite songs once more for a Gustie audience.
Senior Jessica Backes will also be making an appearance as she accompanies the Christ Chapel Ringers on the flute in the song “Down the River”, demonstrating the applicability of handbells to more than just one music form.
Sophomore James Wittrig enjoyed the handbell tour particularly because of the way in which the tour group incorporated other mediums of music with their handbell staple.
While Wittrig also played the organ, Niles and sophomore Emily Loken were featured on the piano, and Senior Gino Fraboni shared his vocal talents.
“I joined handbells right away my freshmen year,” Wittrig said, “because I like music, and everybody at handbells is just as excited. Our director, Chad Winterfeldt, is also a great director and a really nice person.
“He keeps everything low stress which is good if you don’t have time to be involved because of other commitments.”
“Handbells is made up from the individuals that participate in the ensemble as a greater whole. Every year is unique because the participants change every year, but this year is an especially good group of ringers,” Junior Rachel Larson said.
In the Christ Chapel Ringers, Larson is looking forward to playing “City of Stars” from the hit movie-musical La La Land.
“Every year we get a new group of students,” Niles said, “so we get a new mix of music. We are only as good as the person who knows the least because in handbells the musicians must work together as a collective.
“It’s weird to be in the senior piece this year instead of watching it, but I know everyone we’re leaving behind is fantastic and is going to do a great job throughout the next years.”
Come and witness the hard work of the three handbell ensembles and the touring group this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in Christ Chapel.
It is rumored Director Chad Winterfeldt may continue his tradition of dressing in costume, so be prepared for good music and good fun this coming weekend.