This Month

Call for Submissions for National Seminar 2019

Pre-Register for National Seminar 2019

College Ring-In Coming to St. Louis

YouTube Level 2 Music Challenge

Video of the Month

Look Who’s Ringing Handbells

John Behnke’s Music Notes


National Events

GO HERE to find out more about all our national events.

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Become a Sustaining Partner

Upgrade your membership to SUSTAINING PARTNER and play an important role in ensuring the future of Handbell Musicians of America. As a SUSTAINING PARTNER

  • You are CONNECTED to the handbell community
  • You are IN PARTNERSHIP with other handbell musicians
  • You are NURTURED through education and resources


New Member-Extra for September: Are you intrigued by bell trees but not ready to purchase a full stand and all the extras?  Consider making a portable dowel bell tree to sample the possibilities.  All materials are available at your local hardware store.  See the links in the article for additional resources available in the Member Center regarding bell trees


hf-logo-260px Help build a pension for the Guild, by contributing to the HERITAGE FUND



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

College Ring-In 2019 Registration Now Open

Registration is now open for College Ring-In, January 6-8, 2019, in Bloomington, Minnesota (near Minneapolis). College Ring-In is an event for college students and recent alumni and features three days of ringing under the direction of Carolynne Mathis and culminating in a public concert on the final evening.  Participants will be given their own individual ringing assignment to prepare in advance and the join other attendees to rehearse and polish the music for the final concert.

The event also includes a reading session of unpublished compositions and arrangements submitted by participants.  We’ll have publishers and editors from the handbell industry on hand to provide advice and guidance regarding copyright permissions and the publication process.

Registration Information

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Deadline Approaching for National Seminar 2019 Performer and Faculty Submissions

Submission Deadline is OCTOBER 1, 2018

The National Seminar planning committee is seeking submissions from those interested in sharing their talents and expertise at our annual event. The event is scheduled for July 16-20 at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE is October 1, 2018.

See complete details and application forms below:

Faculty/Class Submissions

  • Those submitting must have their own individual Handbell Musician membership or be the primary contact for an organization’s Handbell Musician membership.
  • Consider all aspects of handbell musicianship in all settings as you develop your class ideas. The committee strives to select a wide variety of classes for all constituencies of our membership.
  • Those submitting more than one class topic will be given priority consideration.
  • Those interested in teaching at the event must submit a separate Class Submission Application for each class topic/idea they would like to present. Complete the application by following the link below.  All applications MUST be completed using the online form at the link provided.  Applications in other formats will not be accepted.
  • Any applicant who has not taught at a National Seminar or Pinnacle in the past three years (since Rochester 2016) must provide two letters of reference from individuals who have observed the applicant teaching within the past 12 months. These letters must be sent directly to [email protected] by the person providing the reference.  It is your responsibility to ensure that both recommendations are sent by the deadline.
  • Deadline for submission is October 1. Applicants will be notified of committee selections by January 1, 2019
  • Questions regarding the process should be directed to [email protected].

Faculty Apply Here

Performer Submissions

  • Those submitting must have a Handbell Musician membership in the name of the performer or performing group.
  • We will be selecting performers for both evening and day-time concerts.
  • The committee strives to select performers that represent all areas of Guild membership. Performers from worship settings, schools, and the community, as well as youth, adult, soloists, small ensembles, and other unique combinations, will all be considered.
  • Those interested must complete a Performer Submission Application which is available by clicking the application button below. All applications MUST be submitted using the online form.  Applications sent in other formats will not be accepted.
  • A link to a recently recorded audition video (recorded with in the past 12 months) must be provided.  See additional criteria in the submission application.
  • Deadline for submission is October 1. Applicants will be notified of committee selections by January 1, 2019.
  • Questions regarding the process should be directed to [email protected].

Performers Apply Here

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Pre-Register for National Seminar 2019

Lock in lower registration fees with pre-registration: Deadline is October 1

Pre-register for National Seminar 2019 by October 1 with a $125 deposit and secure a registration fee of $350.

Meet us in St. Louis at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch, July 16-20 and enjoy informative classes, inspiring performances, professional networking opportunities, eclectic and varied Handbell Industry Council Exhibits, and much more at this event for handbell musicians of all levels.  National Seminar offers something for everyone and is a must for ringers, directors, educators, church musicians, community ensembles, composers, and industry representatives.

Those who opt for pre-registration will have the chance to register for the full event classes and tracks before everyone else.  Full event registration will be available February 15, 2019.

Pre-registration requires a $125 deposit which will be applied to your final registration fee.  All but $25 is refundable if cancelled before March 15, 2019, and before you complete full event registration.  If you cancel after completing full registration, the full event cancellation policy will apply.  Pre-registrants must complete full registration by May 1, 2019, to receive the discounted rate.  Registration completed after May 1 will be charged the non-discounted registration fee.

Pre-Register Now

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Next Member Chat

“I Write the Songs” with Composer Jason Krug
September 29 • 3 p.m. Eastern

Do you wonder what all goes in to the composition process? Ever wanted to pick the brain of a composer to figure out why they write what they do, or why they write at all? Here’s your chance to get all your questions answered during this Member Chat with Jason Krug. Jason will discuss some of the thoughts and considerations that go into his compositions, attempt to explain why he writes the way he does, and field questions from those in attendance.

Member-Chat Details

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Video of the Month

Our Video of the Month is the Hastings College Handbell Choir performing under the baton of Dr. Byron Jensen in the Perkins Hall, Hastings, Nebraska, November 5, 2017.  This ensemble performs on more than 60 handbells and handchimes along with a variety of additional instruments including percussion, wind, and strings.  Millennial Vibe is a five-voice a capella group making their debut, time marker 43:09-47:55.

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Look WHO‘s Ringing Handbells!

Submitted by Fred Gramann

The Grinch (of Dr. Suess fame) may well try to steal Christmas again this year, but handbells may steal a bit of the show. On November 9th the new animated film “The Grinch” will be released, recounting how the grumpy green Grinch decided to ruin Christmas for all the whos in Whoville. The co-director, Yarrow Cheney, and his wife, Carrie, have been quite active in the life of the American Church in Paris where I am the Director of Music. Yarrow also co-directed The Secret Life of Pets and was a production designer in Despicable Me, The Lorax and Despicable Me 2.

Being a hardcore fan of the ACP Bronze Ringers, our advanced handbell ensemble, Yarrow decided to give Whoville its very own handbell choir for the film. His drawing shows a rather unconventional group of ringers with some unique techniques. (You’ll see me in the center of the ensemble with handbells attached to antlers, allowing me to ring 7-in-head). So, whether or not you find your Christmas stocking stuffed with tringlers, fuzzles, pantookas, dafflers or wuzzles, still plan to go see “The Grinch”. WHO knows who you’ll see?

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YouTube Level 2 Music Challenge

We are challenging you, no matter what your ensemble’s ringing level, novice to advanced, to rehearse a Level 2 or below piece of music and make it sound like a Level 5. Give the piece as much musicality as you can through technique, style, tempo, rhythm, etc.

Throughout the month of November, post a video of your finished piece to YouTube and send us a link to it. This will give choirs who take the summer off  a couple of months to rehearse. We will feature the videos in a special section of the website and invite others to comment on them. Send your link to [email protected]. Include with your submission any notes you’d like to share about what you did to refine the musicality of the piece and steps you may have taken to achieve it.

Please note: If you use a piece of music that is not published by AGEHR Publishing, then you will need to secure permission from the publisher to post it to YouTube and

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Music Notes from John Behnke

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

For the past few years, I’ve been arranging Christmas music for my bell choir, the Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble, to play with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for their Holiday Pops concerts. Normally involved in the planning are a guest conductor, a vocal soloist, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and our bell choir.  So the program is a collection of everyone’s favorite holiday music, trying not to duplicate any melodies.

The planning of the program can start in July or frantically happen in November depending on the busyness of the guest conductor.

For one of our first years, we played two solo pieces from our tables and after the concert I heard from people who sat in expensive orchestra seats that they loved the sound of the bells but really could NOT see us, because we were located behind the orchestra.  That’s when I thought about a piece with a processional that could be memorized and played on the apron of the stage.   Over the years this has led to arrangements of “Joy to the World,” “Good King Wenceslas,” “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “He is Born.” All of these pieces have no bell changes, use repeated patterns and sections to aid memorization, and use two contrasting tunes in an A-B-A form.

Our featured piece this month, is my arrangement of “I Saw Three Ships,” AG35274, for 3-6 octaves of handbells and optional string orchestra.   I went way out of my comfort zone by adding string parts to the arrangement for Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass.   I can’t tell you how often I checked and double-checked those string parts so I didn’t have a symphony player questioning what I wrote.  And I was praying mightily during the dress rehearsal that everything would go smoothly and it did; sounding even better than the Finale sound file which I listened to hundreds of times in preparation.

I Saw Three Ships, AG35374, is a stand alone handbell piece for 3-6 octaves of bells, with optional string parts.   The full score for the conductor and the string parts are AG35375.   Because it’s in 6/8 time, it is a Level 3 piece, though in my opinion it’s an easy Level 3 piece.

Last year the guest conductor was Maestro Andreas Delfts and for his introduction to the piece he said that the procession of the three Wise Men was like viewing three ships crossing the desert.   So the three ships are a symbol for the three Wise Men, which is a wonderful picture to keep in mind.

The middle melody in the piece is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The lower bells use a singing bell accompaniment while the middle (battery) bells play the melody and the upper bells echo the melody a half beat after.

Here is a short YouTube video of the beginning of the piece with the Milwaukee Symphony so you can see what the situation was for us.

If you don’t wish to memorize a piece, you can always place music stands wherever you wish and play from them.   Changing the location of your ringing can create something new and exciting for your Christmas service or concert this year and maybe for years to come.   For us, necessity was indeed the mother of invention.

And thank you for considering this piece for your Christmas or Holiday services or concerts.

See & Hear the Music

Until next month,
Happy Ringing!

John Behnke, Music Editor

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