This Month

Message from Incoming Interim Executive Director, Ed Rollins

Members-Only Site Open to All Handbell Musicians Until May 31

Continuing to Monitor Situation with Summer Events

Stay in Touch With Other Handbell Musicians and Friends With Handbell Happy Hours

Next Member-Chat

Video of the Month

Brian’s Music Notes


National Events

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Please note that any PAYMENTS sent to the Guild should now go to the following address:

Handbell Musicians of America PO Box 221047 Louisville, KY 40252

This includes membership renewal, contributions, event registration payments, invoice payments, etc.

All GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE that DOES NOT include a check payment should should be sent to:

Handbell Musicians of America 201 E. Fifth Street Suite 1900-1025 Cincinnati, OH 45202

The Times They Are a Changin’

A Message from Incoming Interim Executive Director Ed Rollins

In a world changing by the minute, there are few constants left for us to hold on to carry us through hard times. One constant is the love we share with people all around us; family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. It is amazing to watch neighborhoods gather in the evening outside to cheer our medical heroes. It is incredible to see people everywhere covering up and walking, greeting others with friendliness and comradery. We are sharing moments of history that may never happen again, and we are doing it with grace.  

Another constant in our lives is music. We love to sing and ring and play – we love to share notes of hope and joy – we love to unite ourselves through music, and especially that of handbell ringing. Virtual musicians abound on the internet – musicians play and dance on their streets – musicians just carry a happy tune of hope.

Handbell Musicians of America is a group bound by hope and grace and music, and we, too, are experiencing some changes. Jenny Cauhorn, executive director for 13 and a half years, will be moving to a new position starting later this month. Congratulations to Jenny for her new opportunity and a world of thanks for the incredible job she has performed for our organization. Her tenure led the Guild through countless positive changes, and we will forever be grateful. I encourage you to send greetings of thanks to her at [email protected].

While this significant change will be difficult, the national board of directors is moving forward to address the future, and the amazing staff of Handbell Musicians of America will continue to help make our organization great. These groups will be a constant for our organization during this time. Please remember to encourage them and root them on. They are a terrific board and staff, and we are grateful that they are in place and working hard.  

It is my privilege and honor to come on board as the interim executive director for Handbell Musicians of America during this time of transition. I am grateful to the board for the invitation to help during this time. Together, with the board and staff, we will continue to move forward for the common goal of uniting people through handbells. 

In 1964, Bob Dylan sang the iconic song, “The Times They Are a Changin.’” We may not be able to change the world (but stay home – that will help), but we can continue to add notes of joy and hope to a changing world. Keep ringing folks. And we will all be changed.

Thanks, Jenny! 

Blessings and safety to you all.  

Please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

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Members-Only Site Open to Non-Members Until May 31

We hope you all are staying healthy and coping well during this time that most Americans have been asked to stay at home to help slow and eventually stop the spread of COVID-19.

To help ease the anxiety and isolation of social distancing and staying inside, Handbell Musicians of America has opened up our members-only site to all handbell musicians, members and non-members alike, through May 31. There you will find the online edition of our quarterly journal, Overtones, archives of Member-Notes and Member-Chats, and a wealth of other handbell resources, all for you to enjoy during this time.

Please stay United Through Our Musical Art and, above all, and stay well!

Visit Members’ Site

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Continuing to Monitor Situation with Summer Events

With shelter-in-place orders during the COVID-19 crisis currently set until April 30, we continue to evaluate plans for our 2020 Summer Events in Orlando. Currently, the schedule for National Seminar, Master Class, and Distinctly Teen remains intact, and we will adjust as the situation evolves. If you have already registered for the event, we ask that you continue to check your email and the HMA Website, for further direction and additional information from the event planning committee.

To help in your personal planning, we have extended the early-bird pricing deadline to June 1. For Master Class in Conducting attendees, we have changed the video requirement. For this year’s event you may make a video of yourself conducting a recording, rather than an actual ensemble. Or, if you are a returning attendee, you may submit one of your previous recordings. Additionally, the video deadline has been extended to April 30.

In this troubling time, the health and safety of our members is our primary concern. That informs all decisions we make regarding events. It is just too soon to change the schedule. Please know that we will remain transparent and timely in our decision-making, keeping what is best for our members at the forefront. We appreciate your patience.

Visit Seminar Site

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Stay in Touch With Other Handbell Musicians and Friends With Handbell Happy Hours

Looking for a fun way to help ease the isolation of self-quarantine and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic? Join us each Tuesday and Thursday for a casual, virtual chat with your handbell friends.

Happy Hour Times:
Tuesdays – 4:00 P.M. Eastern (1 P.M. Pacific)
Thursdays – 7:00 P.M. Eastern (4 P.M. Pacific)

Each will be hosted by a member of the national staff or board of directors. Use this time to check in with each other, share ideas for staying musically connected, and discuss your love for all things handbell. No need to pre-register, just follow the link each week.

Today (April 14)
Beginning Thursday (April 16) the link for that and all future Happy Hours will be

Sessions will last up to an hour. Have ideas for topics to discuss on these chats? Just email your suggestion to [email protected]. We will continue our Handbell Happy Hours as long as they are useful and valuable to our members.

So grab your favorite snack and beverage and join us online!

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Next Member-Chat

Starting a Community Handbell Group

Saturday, April 25, 2020
1:00 p.m. Eastern

Join Jarod Ogier, co-founder, conductor, and current president of Columbus Rings, a community handbell ensemble composed of ringers from the Central Ohio Area.

Please note: While Member-Chats are normally a members-only benefit, during this time that we have opened up our members-only site to all handbell musicians, non-members may register to attend as well.

Member-Chat Details

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Video of the Month

This month, as we all experience shelter-in-place orders, many handbell musicians are not letting this stop them from performing. In this issue, we offer you two videos of the month, with an invitation to add to the list throughout the rest of the month. In the first video, Sandra Eithun and her son Mitchell bring us a small ensemble with piano arrangement of “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna,” arranged by Sandra. In the second, Brian Seemann tackles all the bells himself with Michael Joy’s “Toccata Ritmica.”

Has anyone else performed on handbells virtually during this period of quarantine? If so, send a link to [email protected], and we’ll add it to the list to share. And keep visiting our website at to see what’s been added.

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Brian’s Music Notes

with Brian Childers

“We Gather Together” Arr. Linker/McFadden

AG35182/5183; Level 3; 3-5 Octaves Bells; with Organ/Keyboard; Originally Released Spring 01
Liturgical Season: General; Thanksgiving


“We Gather Together” is a hymn of Dutch origin witten in 1597 to celebrate the Dutch victory in the Battle of Turnhout. This hymn is appropriate as a general hymn of gratitude throughout the church year. It is most commonly associated with Thanksgiving Day in the United States. You can preview the music and order your copy of “We Gather Together” from Lorenz here: Order “We Gather Together”

At the time the hymn was written, the Dutch were engaged in a war of liberation against King Philip II of Spain. “We Gather Together” resonated because under the Spanish King, Dutch Protestants were forbidden to gather for worship. The hymn first appeared in print in a 1626 collection of Dutch folk and patriotic songs, Nederlandtsche Gedenck-Clanck by Adriaen Valerius. According to the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, “We Gather Together’s” first appearance in an American hymnal was in 1903.


This setting of “We Gather Together” utilizes the hymn tunes KREMSER and ST. CATHERINE. The arrangement opens in Bb with an 8 measure intro featuring a descending eighth note pattern leading into the first verse with the bells carrying the tune. The second stanza allows the bells to reinstitute the opening descending eighth note pattern while the organ carries the tune. Upon modulating to G Major, the bells move to ST. CATHERINE. Following a four measure interlude, the arrangement modulates to C major for the final statement of the KREMSER tune. 

NOTES from Janet and Jane

“We Gather Together” was written for the Thanksgiving season with the well-loved tune KREMSER, which now is more often sung as the general “We Praise You, O God, Our Redeemer.” It is for 3-5 oct. handbells and keyboard, and begins with the piano introducing the melody, which is picked up by the bells, and then shared again as they joyfully travel through two verses.  A more contemplative middle section uses the tune ST. CATHERINE, “Faith of Our Fathers” before the uplifting return to KREMSER and conclusion. We dedicated this piece in memory of our beloved fathers, and their strong faith as shining examples to us as we grew. Conductors should lead the ringers and pianist in bringing out the sections where they have the melody, and lightening up in places where they accompany the tune. The chordal sections for both together should have clean damping and bold ringing strokes. We encourage the musicians to have fun playing this piece!

What you should know about the arrangers

From Jane McFadden: I was first introduced to bells in 1975 when the choir director at our church convinced the congregation to order a 5-octave set.  He intended to start the program, but left to take another job in the summer with the bells on the way! I was the director of the youth choirs at the time, and accepted the challenge.  I attended a summer clinic and learned to ring. In the fall, I started with the high school age, giving them a test to be sure they could read music, and we played in church at Thanksgiving for the first time. I did have a lot of interest because bells were so new, and started with thirteen teenagers and even had a waiting list to join.  Because there was not a lot of published music for handbells at the time, I arranged some of the music I wanted them to play, and my choirs were the guinea pigs as I learned what worked and what didn’t. The next year I added a women’s group that practiced on a weekday morning, and the following year I started a junior high group. The women’s group still rings regularly with some of the original members. Now instead of employing babysitters we deal with snow-birds who vacation in FL, but somehow we manage to keep our monthly church commitment! 

In the mid-80’s I decided to go back to organ-playing, and took lessons from Janet Linker, organist at Capital University across the street from our church.  Jan had done some organ arrangements, and we collaborated on a handbell and organ piece for fun. Beckenhorst accepted our first effort, “Festival Prelude on ‘Be Thou My Vision’” and that began forty years of writing music together.  My first published handbell piece was “Pastorale on ‘Lo,How a Rose E’er Blooming,’ an arrangement of a Bach organ prelude for bells and flute using the two tunes together. I’ve always thought people like handbells better when they can follow the tune, and so including organ, piano or instrument seemed like a wonderful way to do this.  Now we have handchimes that are so beautiful in bringing out a melody and making the music meaningful. Jan and I have written over 70 handbell arrangements with either organ or piano sharing the attention. I have another 30+ titles in print for handbells alone or with another instrument, and Jan has many organ collections published as well.  We also have published a piano/organ duet book and have lately worked together on a collection of piano solos on hymn tunes.

I retired from 20 years as organist, and 40+ years as handbell director and now play in my Christ Lutheran Church bell choir and sub on organ when needed.  Jan retired from her teaching at Capital University after 33 years, and is continuing her lifetime career as organist, now at Trinity United Methodist Church in Columbus, OH.  Jan and I are now both widows, having lost our husbands to cancer five and eight years ago. We each have two married sons, and six and three grandchildren respectively. Jan also lost a 22 yr old daughter in 1985.  Through the joys and sorrows of life, we have given thanks for the work we have shared, inspired by God, and supported by wonderful church congregations and the amazing musicians who give life to our written notes on the page!

A recent photo of Janet (L) and Jane (R)

Special thanks to Jane McFadden for her input on this article. For more background on these two great arrangers, read on!

Borrowed from a previous Overtones Article 

At this time(2002), Janet Linker and Jane McFadden have more than fifty pieces in print for handbells and organ or piano. Each is also a composer on her own instrument. Jane is an organist as well-in fact, they met as teacher and student when Jane decided to go back to playing organ after concentrating on choral conducting for several years. When they write music, they sit together on a piano or organ bench, talk it through, and then plunge in, all four hands on the keyboards. 

“Jan is a wonderful improviser,” says Jane. “If I have an idea that I will kind of play, she will take off with that.” “I consider myself more an arranger than a composer,” says Jan. “I don’t have good original skills, but I can take an idea and develop it. The ideas often flow for me when I have a germ of an idea to work with. Jane provides that germ.” 

Jane’s work continues on the other end of their joint process. “We just scratch it out on paper as we work,” she explained. “When we’re done, I translate it onto the computer.” Their rough drafts can be really rough. “Chicken scratchings,” Jane calls them, and relates, “Once we sat down to develop a piece we’d started earlier, and it just wasn’t working. Jan’s part wasn’t working, and neither was mine. We started and stopped, then we looked at each other, laughed hilariously, turned the page right side up and tried it again. That time it went just fine.” 

Working out the difficult balance between organ and handbells also tends to fall to Jane. “You need to have a really good director out front to achieve the proper balance,” says Jan. “An organist has to be careful that the organ doesn’t overpower the bells.” Their partnership reflects the delight each composer takes in both instruments. “We think of them also as a partnership and try to give equal importance to each,” said Jan.

 The two also share a deep background and interest in church music melodies-although “coming from different denominations, we disagree sometimes on hymns,” said Jane. The litmus test in their decision: “It should be something that most people recognize,” said Jane. 

You might guess that some lucky church somewhere has Jan Linker working as an organist and Jane McFadden as hand­bell director. You’d be wrong: the two have never worked together in the same church.  You might also guess that these two Midwestern grandmoth­ers, longtime residents of Columbus, Ohio, had never been anywhere or done anything. Wrong again: this time, think ”Top Gun.” Both married military aviators, and they lived in California (both), Texas (Jan), and Florida (Jane) dur­ing those careers. Jane even had the wonderful opportunity to follow husband John around the Mediterranean for nine months when he was sent there by the Navy. (That’s where John picked up his first Jaguar. Restoring them became a life­long hobby, and he was national champion in his class three times in the 1980s. Jane boasts that her husband built a pipe organ for their home, built his own computer, and also taught her computer skills. Jan’s husband, Jim, is owner of the Link Stamp Co., a business for collectors and investors.) 

That’s not all the two friends have in common. They also each have two sons, attended small Lutheran colleges, con­sider their families top priority, “and think alike about a lot of things, musical and otherwise,” as Jane explains. 

In 1985 Jan’s only daughter, Jenni, died suddenly of com­plications from brain surgery. “This was devastating to Jan. We’ve always felt that God (and perhaps even Jenni) has had a big hand in our writing. When my bell choir performed Be Thou My Vision for the first time on May 21, 1989, it hap­pened to be exactly four years after Jenni’s death. I remember well what the pastor, Tom Wolfe, said about Jan at that time: ‘When a person who has been through such a tragedy as the loss of a child can write beautiful music of praise, that is one of the mysteries of faith in God.”‘ 

“Throughout our writing experience, more ‘coincidences’ and opportunities have convinced us that this was what God planned,” Jane concludes. “We feel that our work is God’s doing, because somehow it all just comes together.” 

Jane McFadden has served as organist and handbell direc­tor at David’s United Church of Christ in Canal Winchester, Ohio, since 1990. She also directs a women’s handbell choir at Christ Lutheran Church in Columbus where, for sixteen years, she had a multiple choir program of youth and chil­dren’s handbell and vocal choirs. Jane holds a music educa­tion degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota and certification from the AGEHR as a massed choir direc­tor. She has also served the guild as Ohio State Chairman. 

Janet Linker holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in organ performance from Capital University and the University of Michigan, respectively. She teaches organ at Capital and has been organist in various churches for more than forty years, including thirty years in the United Methodist denomination.

Excerpts from Overtones Sept/Oct 2002. “Bach, Beethoven, and Janet Linker and Jane McFadden” was originally written by Cindy Alexander, ringer and talented writer from Duluth MN. Cindy was a charter member of Strikepoint. 

See & Order Music

Until next month,

Brian Childers
Music Adviser

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