Ensemble Spotlight

Area 11, Handbell Musicians of America is proud to spotlight ensembles that have made their mark (not mart!) in Area 11.

Each newsletter we will be moving the spotlight across our five states to highlight ensembles in religious, community, and educational programs.  Thank you to these ensembles for their dedication to advancing the art of handbell ringing throughout Area 11.

Based in Colorado Springs, Forté is an advanced quartet marked by artistry, energy, and dedication to their craft. In pursuit of musical excellence, Forté strives to explore, innovate, inspire, and glorify God through the gift of music. The musicians of Forté – Luke Nabeta, Megan Reishus, Dillon Ekle, and Tory Marting – continually challenge themselves to “Rethink Possible,” expanding their musical and performance horizons and adding original compositions and arrangements to their ever-expanding repertoire, while challenging audiences’ perceptions of what handbells can really do. Since forming in 2007, Forté has had an increasingly active schedule of concerts and recordings, made possible with the help of their growing team of monthly supporters. They have been featured performers and faculty at Handbell Musicians of America events, have presented several successful tours across the country, and released three CDs and a DVD of music videos filmed around the state of Colorado. Forte Website

 

Community Ensembles

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Utah Valley Handbell Choir. The ensemble was established in 1993 by Karen Eskew-Wyllie with the mission to Entertain, Educate, and Enrich. Over the past three decades the choir has developed a reputation of excellence and artistry and has helped to increase awareness of the art of handbell ringing in communities across Utah. In addition to their appearances on radio and television, the Utah Valley Handbell Choir has recorded three CDs and regularly collaborates with various composers and performers.

Today, the ensemble is under the direction of Dr. Glen Hicks and they continue to be an integral part of the communities they serve. For more information about the group, visit us on Facebook and our website.

 

 

WyoRing was established in 2012, we are a non-profit community organization. We play for many venues which have included weddings, funerals, performed with our high school choir, play monthly at a church here in Torrington, and had the privilege of being the featured group at the Ft. Robinson Christmas Gala Concert in Crawford, NE. We always enjoy the Spring Ring event in Casper, WY. Joyce Willeke has directed handbells since 1998 and then continued on when our group became the WyoRing Ringers and presently holds this position.

We have hosted a WyoRing event in the Fall, for several of our area choirs with extremely knowledgeable clinicians and hope to resume that event. Our group is open to welcoming any new members that would like to join us and learn the joy of ringing handbells! Find us on Facebook at: Wyo-Ring Handbell Choirs

 

Since 1991, the Pikes Peak Ringers have continually expanded the boundaries of traditional handbell music, bringing their extensive repertoire, innovative techniques and distinctive visual approach to numerous projects and venues around the country. Recognized worldwide as one of the premier handbell ensembles in North America, the Pikes Peak Ringers perform local and out-of-state concerts and have been featured at national handbell events and on promotional recordings. They also have seven studio CDs, an instructional DVD, and a live concert DVD.

Today, as a non-profit organization, the Pikes Peak Ringers continue to provide an outlet for advanced ringers in the greater Colorado Springs community, to teach others about handbells through workshops and other venues, and to create vivid performances that showcase the instrument of English handbells with the highest-quality presentation and musicianship. For more information about the group, visit us on Facebook and our website (pikespeakringers.com).

Bells of the Rockies is the premiere handbell ensemble in the Northern Colorado area, founded by Michael Kastner. We are an established group who strives for excellence in all aspects of handbell ringing, from technique, musicality to presentation. It is the goal of the group to create a positive, emotional experience for the audience for which they are glad they came.

We love to collaborate with other musicians and instruments and the creative process with other media. We are passionate about ringing and we enjoy ringing with each other! We look forward to participating in Handbell festivals when we can.

We are under the direction of Marvin Crawford. Please enjoy a snip it of a song we presented at our last Christmas concert. Please join us for our upcoming Holiday concerts December 17th in Greeley, and December 18th in Loveland.

Please go to our website for further details about our group, the members, and concert information. Please follow us on Facebook for early notifications of our activities. We have an exciting campaign starting soon!

Denver Bronze is an auditioned community handbell ensemble under the direction of Paul Gentry, Artistic Director. The group was founded in 2006 and auditions are held every summer for the next year’s group. Our missions statement is: Denver Bronze is dedicated to musical excellence and service to the community through artistic handbell performance and educational outreach. We are based in the South Metro Denver Area, and our group rings on 5 octaves of handbells plus the G2 and C2 bells, and 5 octaves of chimes. We have performed in numerous venues including the Holiday Lighting Ceremony in downtown Denver, concerts through out the south side of Denver, numerous area libraries, Denver Botanical Gardens, weddings, and private parties, as well as senior facilities and assisted living facilities.

Our group is supportive to Area 11 in numerous ways. We have hosted several Ringers’ Roundups and Super Bell Saturdays. Several members have actively worked on planning committees for different festivals in Colorado, as well as Area Festivals. And members have done workshops and educational activities with groups in the area who request it. Denver Bronze has 2 members who are Past Chairs for Area 11, and one who is a past Colorado state chair.

One of the most fun activities for our group was playing at the Area 11 Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2018. We highly recommend playing for other handbell groups. Although stressful (because they know what you should be doing) it’s incredibly rewarding because they can also appreciate what you are doing! Check out our website and you can find links to videos there. We also have a Youtube Channel.

Religious Ensembles

Bells of Praise, one of three bell choirs at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Phoenix, Arizona, came into existence in the late 80s. They started with only 3 octaves of Schulmerich bells, grew to 5 octaves and just recently acquired the lower 6th and 7th octaves of Malmark handchimes, completing their set of C2-C8! Mondays are rehearsal nights and the choir typically plays the last Sunday of the month and special Church Sundays and festivals.

Bells of Praise is always excited to be asked to play at the Desert Botanical Garden’s Luminaria Event, Apache Junction Public Library, Retirement Centers, and they even staged a Flash Mob around a Salvation Army Christmas Ringer! And that is the nuts and bolts of this choir…NOW for the interesting stuff!

This choir is its own family! They pray for each other and share in one another’s triumphs and sorrows. Vacations are planned around the bell schedule. They celebrate each other’s birthdays and bring in the BEST goodies. These ringers are compassionate and so very funny!

Some of them are engineers, some are teachers, social workers, pharmacy techs, accountants, some are grandparents while others are starting their life’s journey. Some are really tall and some are pretty short, but every single one of them is an accomplished musician. They are passionate about their bell time and are diligent about rehearsals and performances and presenting their very best. They barely squawk when the director asks them to do something out of the ordinary! They are by far the BEST group of musicians around. How do I know all this? I am their director and I am humbled and proud to be a part of this fantastic group! – Leslie Franzmeier

PHOENIX RINGERS HANDBELL CHOIR
Casper, Wyoming

Carolyn Deuel approached the Session of the First Presbyterian Church of Casper, WY, about starting a handbell choir in 1981. Many people helped with the purchase of the bells, and the
Jubilate Ringers began making beautiful music! Later, a youth handbell choir was added.

Collaborations with the handbell choirs of the First United Methodist Church and the First Christian Church brought Ring Noel and Wyoming Spring Events to the community, and Highland Park Community Church also participated.

In 1987, Carolyn left the Presbyterian Church when the administration decided to split her organist/choir director/bell director job and expected her to stay as organist only. Several of
her ringers stayed with her, and for a year, George Cannon welcomed their rehearsing at the First United Methodist Church. Then, Arch and Janis Deuel, Carolyn’s parents, gifted her with five octaves of Schulmerich Bells, since it was obvious the bell choir, by then already a community choir, was going to continue. Thus, the Phoenix Ringers came to be.

The Phoenix Ringers play the gathering music for the December Festival Choir & Orchestra Concert at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church and perform for other church and community groups. The Wyoming Spring Ring, organized by Carolyn and her brother, Dana Deuel, Director of the Koinonia Ringers of the First United Methodist Church, regularly draws ringers from Colorado and Wyoming, with some participants from Nebraska, Utah, and other states.

Sally Reinhart, from the original 1981 choir, still rings, and several others have rung for decades. Others have begun in the last two years, including two high school youth. All of the members play other instruments or began playing bells in college, so reading and making music together are joyful collaborations!

Grace Notes Handbell Choir from Community United Methodist Church in Ogden, Utah

The Handbell Choir Ministry at Community United Methodist Church began 26 years ago as a dream. A small group of people, led by Claudette Rothwell, envisioned a ministry where children, youth and adults of all ages and any level of musical expertise could come together and glorify God with handbells. In September 1997 that dream became a reality when a three-octave set of bells was purchased by members and friends of our church in memory or in honor of family members and loved ones. Over the years we have added an additional two-octaves of bells to round out our five-octave set, another one-octave set that allows us to double up on ringing positions, and both a five-octave set and a three-octave set of Choirchimes. Since our beginning in 1997, approximately 240 children, youth and adults have had the opportunity to make beautiful music with the bells. The Grace Notes is our adult choir and is open to anyone regardless of musical knowledge or church affiliation. Besides playing for worship services, the Grace Notes have played for schools, community events, assisted living facilities, Veterans homes, and many Christmas parties. In addition, we present a Christmas Concert and a Spring Concert each year and invite the community. We are members of the Handbell Musicians of America and have enjoyed participating in Area 11 Spring Rings, Area11 Festivals, other yearly events and workshops, and HMA National Seminars. We enjoy making music together and sharing the beautiful sound of the bells in so many different venues.

Dove of the Desert United Methodist Church Glendale, AZ

In 2005, a handbell program was established at Dove of the Desert United Methodist Church with the loan of a set of handbells from a sister church. In 2007, donors purchased individual bells in honor or memory of loved ones, allowing Dove to obtain a four-octave set of their own. Since then, handbells have been a staple at Dove of the Desert, under the direction of Brent Fike. Bells have played in services once a month during the school year, and usually two concerts per year. During the pandemic, duets, trios, and quartets persevered, recording music to be aired in online services. The 2020 Christmas Concert with the full group was recorded in a backyard! (That music from Global Bronze’s “Great Christmas Ring” could be played with no tables or sharing of bells.) The group has also played at Desert Botanical Gardens and several senior living care centers in the community. The inventory has grown to five octaves, plus five octaves of chimes. In 2023, we welcomed the addition of a youth choir. About half of the adult members are also members of a community choir established in 2014, Las Palomas del Norte. Bells are definitely always ringing in north Glendale!

Youth Ensembles

The Greenfield Elementary School Handbell Choir has been around since the school was founded in 1973. The three octave set of Schulmerich handbells were bought by the school’s founding principal, Mr. Robert Rimer. Mr. Rimer got the idea to buy the three octave set from experiencing his children play in their church bell choir. The group rehearses every Tuesday and Thursday morning for 30 minutes before school starts. The choir is currently open to any 4th, 5th, or 6th grade student who is interested in ringing. This choir rings on a three octave set with an additional G3 and three octaves of Malmark Choirchimes.

In 2023, an upper 4th octave was added to enhance the students ringing experience and develop 4-in-hand technique. Previously, this bellchoir averaged between 6-8 ringers. This year, the choir started with 17 interested ringers where 12 students continue to ring in the choir. Students can participate at no additional cost. The group primarily performs a Winter and Spring concert with additional performance opportunities throughout the school year. This group is currently led by Anne Kelley who is the primary General Music Teacher at Greenfield Elementary School. Anne currently serves as the Chair-Elect for Area 11 and she directs the Bells of Joy Handbell Choir at St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Mesa, Arizona.

Willowcreek Ringers was established in September 2021. Lehi city has a rich history of secondary school handbell choirs. For years, our sister schools (Lehi Junior and Skyridge High) have had thriving handbell choirs and we are proud to finally join them in the fun!

Our director, Carl Johanson, hails from Gainesville, Florida but came to Utah to study music composition and music education at BYU Provo. There he received both a bachelor’s and a master’s in choral music education with a strong emphasis on sight singing/ringing. He has been married for 10 years and has two amazing 5 year old twin boys and a two year old daughter. In his spare time, he enjoys playing piano, writing music, playing video games, camping, hiking, sewing, sketching, and cooking.

Our ensemble this year has 13 members ringing 4 octaves together. On top of an annual Christmas concert and Spring concert, every October and February we also put on a joint concert with all of our neighboring secondary schools in Lehi. We play many styles of music including classical literature, sacred arrangements, pop songs, and even video game music. During rehearsals, we spend a lot of time not just learning songs to perform, but also how to ring with healthy technique and how to read music. Our ringers are never assigned to the same bells for each song to give each member an opportunity to ring in all the octaves.

With our motto being “Inspiramus, Discimus, Insumus” (We Inspire, We Learn, We Belong) all who enter our program become lifelong learners and musicians whether or not they pursue music as a profession or a hobby.

Riverton High School’s Bell Choir has enjoyed ringing since 1999 when the school opened. Originally started by LeAnna Willmore as she opened the school’s choir program, there have since been two other directors: Tricia Martindale, and the current director Mathew Ulmer. We always have a mix of students from 10 – 12 th grades, and will involve any interested students regardless of music background.

Riverton Bell Choir’s performance schedule includes regular appearances with the Riverton Vocal choir program in their quarterly concerts, and frequent invitations to perform in the community during December Holiday festivities. The Choir is so happy to be renewing Holiday performances after the pandemic, ringing for church and business parties, retirement centers, and this year feels honored to do some fun combination concerts with the Bluffdale community Interfaith choir, and with the Bells of Joyful Sound. And last but not least, Riverton’s Bell Choir enjoys yearly participation in Utah’s Spring Ring, and has been pleased to host the event many times and looks forward to doing so again this year. See you all there in March 2023!

Summit of Peace Lutheran Church in Thorton, Colorado

Anne Kleve is the Director of Choirs at Summit of Peace Lutheran Church in Thornton, Colorado. This is her twentieth year directing handbell choirs. Summit has three bell choirs, including two youth ensembles.

IncrediBELLS is youth choir ranging from third through eighth grade. This year the group had to revamp and move rehearsals to just before confirmation, as to recruit members. They are still small, but had three brand new musicians join! They all start from scratch each year with “Music Basics”. Currently working on weaving and four in hand to expand their capabilities.

Ascent is the high school choir. They too have had retention issues, as youth are all involved with marching band or athletics. Ascent started out the year with a quartet, up to nine, and back down to seven. They all ring advanced music, as most of them have rang since fifth grade. They always look forward to Area 11 Bell Camp!

Anne has a tradition of featuring & empowering high school seniors by teaching them Director skills: picking music, assigning, conducting, and teaching bells. They each work with IncrediBELLS for 4-6 weeks, through the performance! Those skills they will take with them forever.