This Month

A Special Message Concerning  COVID-19

Fun Things to Do While Social Distancing

Video of the Month

Brian’s Music Notes


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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

A Special Message Concerning

Dear HMA Member:

I hope this finds you healthy and not too stir-crazy as you “socially distance” yourself for the well-being of all. I’m adding this personal message this month to address COVID-19 and how the pandemic might affect Handbell Musicians of America and our members – like you.

 First and foremost, I know how disappointed people are that some Area and local events had to be canceled. Making these tough choices is simply unavoidable. Sad, but unavoidable. Rest assured; I have every confidence that we will all be able make music together again – as soon as it is safe to do so.

At this writing, we have not canceled nor postponed any of our originally planned summer events (Master Class, National Seminar, Distinctly Teen). Of course, we are monitoring the situation. Any schedule change decisions will be made closer to the events. Please know that we will always follow the recommendations of the CDC and other governing authorities. In that light, here are some topline tips regarding the prevention of the virus itself: In addition, follow the advice of our handbell manufacturers Malmark and Schulmerich that it is safe to use sanitary wipes on the handles of handbells and handchimes. We also recommend that you wash gloves after each use.

As we all weather this unprecedented storm, we encourage you to stay connected to fellow handbell musicians. There are some great suggestions for doing that offered throughout this newsletter. HMA continues “Uniting People Through the Musical Art of Handbell/Handchime Ringing.” However, since we cannot “unite” physically right now, let’s try our best to do so virtually.




Jennifer Cauhorn
Executive Director

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Fun Things to Do While Social Distancing

Check out our resources and extras on the HMA Members’ Site

While most of us are doing what we can to stay indoors during this uncertain time, we’re all looking for things to keep us occupied and ways to stay connected with our family and friends. Our members only website ( could be the answer you’re looking for! Here are few items you will find there as well as some other ideas to help you stay active and connected to the handbell community.

At our members only site find the following:

  • Explore the online edition of current and past issues of Overtones.
  • Check out the archive for MemberChats and MemberNotes – there is even a chat there about practicing at home!
  • Visit the Member Extras and find some fun activities like a Music Sudoku and National Seminar themed crossword puzzle.
  • Dive in to the many topic-specific articles in the Resource Library, including one with downloadable musical flash cards you can use with your children who may be staying home from school.

Visit Members’ Site

Watch the Distinctly Bronze East Concert on YouTube

The Distinctly Bronze East and Reaching for Bronze concert was live-streamed March 1, but you can still watch it on YouTube.

Go To Video

Play an Online Game of Name That Tune

Do you have access to some bells at home? Here’s a fun idea: Upload a video of you playing only YOUR part of a particular handbell piece to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (or go live) and challenge your friends to guess what piece you are playing. Use hashtag #NameThatBellTune and start a trend to get others playing. Or host a game in a Zoom meeting (or other conferencing platform, some of which have free options), then take turns playing your parts and challenging each other. No handbells at home? You can use a piano or a keyboard on your phone.

Come to the Handbell Happy Hour

Beginning Tuesday, March 24, join us each Tuesday and Thursday at 4 PM EDT for a casual, virtual chat with your handbell friends. 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 this link ( each week. 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!

Revisit Our Virtual Handbell Ensemble Video

Remember our Virtual Handbell Ensemble? Or are you new to HMA and have never seen it? You can find it on our YouTube channel.

It featured 440 handbell musicians from 28 states and 6 countries performing James Meredith’s “Misterium.”

Go To Video

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Video of the Month

Change ringing classes at events are always popular. Many of you may have tried your hand ringing with two or three others. It takes some real concentration for 12 people to ring on 24 handbells. This particular ring was performed in 2013 to celebrate the life and ringing career of the late Roderick W Pipe.

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Brian’s Music Notes

with Brian Childers

“When the Saints Go Marching In ” Arr. Michael Helman

AG35149; 3-5 Octaves Bells; Level 4; Originally Released Spring 1999; Liturgical Season: All Saints Day


This setting of “When the Saints Go Marching In” is especially appropriate for All Saints Day. Of course it can work throughout Ordinary Time and can serve as wonderful prelude for worship or as a lively concert opener, or even play a special role in a service of remembrance. You can order your copy of “When the Saints Go Marching In” from Lorenz here: “When the Saints Go Marching In.”  (For another AGEHR setting of of this same tune, check out Thomas Gregory’s setting as well, AG35360)


Michael Helman’s setting of “When the Saints Go Marching In” features 2 stanzas of the tune in F Major with a malleted walking bass line, followed by a modulation to G major, where bass ringers put down mallets and ring the walking bass line. Michael takes this opportunity to insert the refrain to “Battle Hymn of the Republic ” as a part of the arrangement. Upon modulating to C, the writing tends towards more chordal movement, with some fun syncopated patterns. The final modulation to Ab major slows the tempo with simple chromaticism before closing with the malleted motif used at the beginning of the arrangement

Notes from Michael

As Doug mentioned, this setting is in three verses. The arrangement opens with a 9 measure fanfare in C major. The two handbell parts are quite similar throughout the first verse, with the 4-5 octave version being a bit more full as would be expected. The brass/organ drop out for the second part of the first stanza giving the bells a chance to shine on their own. Following a brief interlude with all instruments, the auxiliary parts drop out as the second verse begins, with the two bell parts providing different complementary functions. All instruments are back in for a brief interlude which modulates to D major. Once again, the bells get a part to themselves towards the end of the third stanza, prior to all parts rejoining and moving towards a powerful ending. The brass writing is well within the average player’s ability in regards to range and level of difficulty.

NOTES from Michael

“This setting was written in the late 1990s. At that time, I was still entering as many composition contests as I could find. I was trying different styles of writing and in this piece I experimented with a more New Orleans jazz style. It is dedicated to the memory of both sets of Grandparents.”

A few thoughts from Michael for conductors:
  • Some ringers just have problems with gyro so any technique that bends the sound a little bit would work like a tower swing or vibrato
  • If the low bass ringers have problems ringing the walking bass line in mm. 41 – 54, it would be fine to mallet them, but do not mallet the upper bass quarters from C5 to C5.
  • Beginning at m. 75, the tempo gets a little slower; at m. 89 I like to go back to Tempo I for the coda section with a small ritard in m.93-94.
  • 84, there is a crescendo; I add a double ff in m. 85
  • 89, I add a diminuendo back down to a f in m. 90
Michael’s Background
  • I was introduced to bells in the early 1980’s and started my first group in 1985 at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church. We were the only Catholic Church in the Diocese of Wilmington (at that time) to have a handbell ensemble. Thanks to many AGEHR seminars in the late 1980’s that helped me to understand this instrument!
  • I began writing pieces for my group at St. Mary’s to reflect their ability level. This was before the AGEHR level guidelines and so good low level pieces appropriate for my setting were not always easy to find.
  • In the early 1990’s a friend encouraged me to enter my first handbell composition contest and much to my surprise, I won! I ended up winning nine handbell competitions and an AGO hymn writing contest.
  • I write when I have an inspiration and can find the time to sit at the piano and work on it. Now, I still write for my own handbell groups as well as church and community ensembles who commission me for a new work.
  • I have lived in Cape Coral, Florida since 2006 when I moved down to become the Director of Music/Organist at Faith Presbyterian Church. It is still a good fit for me. My husband, Ken, also works at the church as a Director of Membership.
  • I have two children. My son and daughter-in-law are both lawyers in Philadelphia and my daughter and son-in-law live in Tallahassee, Florida. My daughter was a professional dancer and now teaches at Tallahassee Ballet and Florida State University where my son-in-law is a professor.
“O When the Saints Go Marching In” Background

Often referred to as “The Saints” this song began as a black spiritual. Over time, it evolved into a jazz standard, closely associated with the city of New Orleans with its rich jazz heritage. The earliest recordings of this work are slow and stately. Arrangements of this work have become more rhythmically complex through the years. One of the early and, perhaps, most famous recordings of this piece was done by the incomparable Louis Armstrong in 1938.

Some of Michael Helman’s other works

Michael Helman has many great titles published with AGEHR. Here are just a few you may want to take a look at!

The Christmas Angels            AG23011        2-3 Octaves
Peal of Praise                          AG23010        2-3 Octaves
Christmas Meditation             AG35126       3-5 Octaves
March Triumphale                  AG35145        3-5 (Instrumental Parts 30/1653AG)
Nocturne #3                            AG36029        3-6
Prayer for Peace                      AG36023        3-6

See & Hear the Music

Until next month,

Brian Childers
Music Adviser

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