ringEr-Notes January 2012

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Articles By Ringers, For Ringers

A Distinctly Teen Experience

By Melissa Byrd

Sonorous music filled the room, its spindly fingers stretching out to the far corners. As the final hushed notes of the song reverberated throughout the room, the audience did not even dare to breathe. The song that the choir played was “Compassion” An original composition by Jason Krug, it was one of the three songs that were performed by seventeen others and me in Minneapolis July 17th, 2011.

Distinctly Teen was a three-day handbell festival exclusively for teenagers, which was filled with ringing, classes, concerts, and more ringing. Though my poor arms, and everyone else’s, were tired by the concert on Sunday night, we rang the music that we had practiced for days to the best of our abilities. It seems all of our rehearsals paid off, for we received unexpected thunderous applause at the concert. I have to say, I was anticipating having an awesome time at Distinctly Teen, but I never thought that it would be such an unforgettable experience.

For most, it all started on Friday afternoon with auditions. I, however, had the opportunity to attend a class and a lunch concert before auditions since I had arrived early. After that, the rest of the time was packed with fun. Being in, as my chaperone put it, “Handbell Heaven,” was one of the best things that had happened to me all summer. It gave me an opportunity to connect with people from all over the nation. And I will never forget my director or my fellow ringers. I was not expecting the talent that was in my choir. It was truly phenomenal to be ringing with teens of that caliber.

When I flew home, I really missed everyone that I rang and talked with. To all the other teens out there reading this, you need to come next year! You will not regret it. Getting to ring songs like “Pirates of the Caribbean” by Kevin McChesney, “Exultate,” by Josh Bauder, and “Compassion,” by Jason Krug, with other teens from all over the country is an amazing opportunity.

Distinctly Teen was not just a fun experience, it helped me to realize that music is powerful. It helps us put aside our differences so we can connect with our fellow ringers, our audience, and even ourselves. When that beautiful and emotional song ended and the audience applauded our efforts, it was one of the best feelings in the world. To have the gift to be able to share music with others is priceless, and I am immensely grateful that I had the chance to do so through Distinctly Teen.

—Melissa Byrd

About Melissa

Melissa is a homeschooled freshman and enjoys being at home with her family and three rambunctious cats. She started playing chimes about six years ago with Homespun Ringers. After a short while her choir switched to handbells, and she has loved it ever since! Along with bells, she also enjoys playing piano, violin, and guitar. In the near future, she plans to attend college and major in some form of music. In the meantime, starting next year, she hopes to take my general education courses at Carroll Community College. She wishes to thank Debbie and Larry Henning for teaching her everything she knows about bells and giving her their support.


Do YOU have a story to share about your handbell and handchime ringing experiences?

Do you know a RINGER with a great anecdote?

If you answered yes to either or both of these questions then we want to hear from you!

Please contact Rima Greer.


Two-Question Interviews with Handbell Notables

This Month’s Personality: Sandra Eithun

How did you first become involved in the handbell community?

When my family joined First Congregational UCC, New London, Wisconsin, back in 1992, an older member of the church came to me to let me know that there were three octaves of handbells stored in the basement of the church.  They had tragically lost their director to a car accident several years prior and decided to store the bells since they had no one to take over the program.  I had never picked up a handbell in my life, but our pastor was quick to give me a pamphlet advertising an upcoming handbell workshop being given by Bill Alexander in nearby Appleton.  I only had to ring for about 5 seconds that day before I said to myself, “I absolutely LOVE this and have to do it!”

Since that time, our church has purchased the additional fourth and fifth octaves, as well as three octaves of chimes.  We have an adult ensemble (Spirit Bells), a youth ensemble (Heavenly Metal 7th – 12th grade), a summer children’s group (Cherub Chimes 3rd – 6th grade), and an intergenerational group called The Ring-Along Choir, made up of non-readers who ring chords with our hymns occasionally throughout the year, offering them a chance to express themselves musically.

Along with Linda Lamb, Mike Joy, Judy Phillips and Emily Li (to name a few), I took the summer handbell classes being offered at Concordia University Wisconsin, where I learned an immense amount about the idiom by working with Dr. John Behnke, Arnold Sherman and Kay Cook.  Now I try to attend the Handbell Musicians of America events and continue to be amazed at what our instrument can do.


Do you have an anecdote or funny story from your experiences with the handbell community?

During one rehearsal, I wanted to drill a treble part that was giving the ringers up there a lot of trouble.  I got my tongue twisted, and instead of saying, “I’d like to hear the stems up trebles, I said, “I’d like to hear the trems up stebles.”  Well, these high school kids roared with laughter, and I knew if I had tried to say that, I would have failed.  So of course, they repeated it all of the time and even wrote it in huge letters on the dry erase board in the room.  This kept up for a couple of weeks and I told them that if they kept saying it, that I was afraid that I was going to repeat it at the next workshop or festival I had to do.  Sure enough, a few weeks later I traveled to the Lutheridge Handbell weekend in North Carolina where I was the clinician.  In front of the entire group I was working with, I asked to hear the part of the “TREMS UP STEBLES.”  After I finished laughing hysterically…I explained it to the group.

About Sandra

Sandra Eithun is a graduate of Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, with a Bachelor of Music degree with an emphasis in the Kodály teaching method, keyboard and flute.  She currently resides in New London, WI, where she has been serving in music ministry as the director of four handbell choirs, choral accompanist and organist/keyboardist at First Congregational United Church of since 1992. She is the director of the Silver Lake College Handbell Choir and is an active member of the Handbell Musicians of America and has served on the Area VII Board of Directors.  She has been commissioned to write music for many events, as well as for numerous individual handbell ensembles and has over 175 pieces for handbells in publication.  Sandra also has several sacred keyboard books in print and is currently working toward a Master’s degree in music education