Fauntleroy Church has a rich history of ringing! Various choirs have waxed and waned over the years. Members old and new came together again in January 2009, looking forward to a full year of performances, beginning Easter Sunday. The Bell Choir at Fauntleroy will perform quarterly under the direction of our Music Director, Bronwyn Edwards Cryer. But, watch for special musical interludes during the regular Sunday services and special events throughout the year.
How to Participate
If you're interested in joining the Bell Choir, contact Hilary Reeves at email@example.com or just stop by a rehearsal and introduce yourself. All are welcome; however, a rudimentary ability to read music is recommended.
The Bell Choir meets two Thursdays a month between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. in the downstairs music room. Please contact Hilary (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Bron (email@example.com) for rehearsal dates.
* Information provided by Wikipedia.
The first tuned handbells were developed by brothers Robert and William Cor in England between 1696 and 1724. Originally, tuned sets of handbells such as the ones made by the Cor brothers were used by change ringers to rehearse outside their towers. Rather than standing for hours in the draughty towers for their practice, they could sit comfortably indoors while they practiced the complicated algorithms of change ringing. The handbell sets used by change ringers had the same number of bells as in the towers--generally six or twelve tuned to a diatonic scale.
Handbells were first brought to the United States from England by Margaret Shurcliff in 1902. She was presented with a set of 10 handbells in London by Arthur Hughes, the general manager of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry after completing two separate two-hour change ringing peals in one day.
The bells used in American handbell choirs are almost always English handbells. "English handbells" is a reference to a specific type of handbells, not to the country of origin. While some American handbell choirs do use bells made in England, a large majority play bells made either by Malmark Bellcraftsmen or by Schulmerich Carillons, both based in Pennsylvania.
The two major defining characteristics of English handbells are their clappers and ability to produce overtones. The clapper on an English handbell is on a hinge and moves back and forth in a single direction, unlike a school bell in which the clapper swings freely in any direction. It also has a spring which holds the clapper away from the casting after the strike to allow the bell to ring freely. Manufacturers give their attention to each bell's overtones, being especially careful to give all the bells in a set a consistent harmonic profile. Each of the foundries has a unique formula for emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain harmonic overtones to produce that bellmaker's unique sound.
Handbells can weigh as little as 4 ounces or upwards of 22 pounds.
A handbell choir or handbell ensemble is a group that rings recognizable music with melodies and harmony, as opposed to the mathematical permutations used in change ringing. The bells used generally include all notes of the chromatic scale within the range of the bell set. While a smaller group uses only 25 bells (two octaves), the sets are often larger, ranging up to a seven-and-a-half-octave set. The bells are typically arranged chromatically on foam-covered tables; these tables protect the bronze surface of the bell, as well as keep the bells from rolling when placed on their sides. Unlike an orchestra or choir in which each musician is responsible for one line of the texture, a bell ensemble acts as one instrument, with each musician responsible for particular notes, sounding his or her assigned bells whenever that note appears in the music.
In the United States, handbell choirs have become more popular over the last thirty years. They are often associated with churches, although the past decade has seen a dramatic rise in the number of community groups. Most community groups use larger sets of handbells than an average church handbell choir, twelve to fifteen members being a common size for a four- or five-octave choir.
Updated: 04/06/09: H. Reeves: B. Ackers