Youth musicians host free handbell concert

March 22, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Imagine taking the keys off of a piano and transforming them into bells. The ring of one would sound like a C note, and the jangle of another would emit an E. Shaking three together would sound like the carillon of a chord.

A youth handbell choir plays its instruments in the 2010 annual handbell conference. This year’s conference is at Pine Lake Covenant Church. Contributed

Hear those sounds when young handbell musicians from across the Pacific Northwest convene at Pine Lake Covenant Church for a conference and concert. The public is invited to a free show at the end of the conference, March 26.

Although handbell groups include all types of musicians, many of the groups at the conference will be from churches. One of them, Issaquah’s Our Savior Lutheran Church, started its handbell group, Memorial Bells, after the death of one of its congregants in 1981.

“It got started by an unfortunate loss in the family,” church and handbell director Alice Lewis said. “They gave an amount that purchased part of the bells that we have now.”

Ringing bells is hard, but rewarding work.

“For the most part, they are hand held and rung with a variety of different techniques,” Lewis said. “You learn how to manipulate them in different ways.”

Emily Waltzer, a seventh-grade student at Maywood Middle School and a member of Memorial Bells, said she is looking forward to the conference, where she will learn new ways to improve her handbell performance.

“I’ve always liked instruments,” she said. “I like the sound of the bells and the techniques of the bells and the ways you play them.”

The conference begins by dividing youths from elementary to high school into beginner and advanced groups — the tins and coppers. Each will participate in musical workshops and games, and all will learn about six pieces they can play together at the concert.

Kathleen Wissinger, an experienced handbell coach and composer from Virginia, will lead several of the workshops. She composed some of the pieces the students will play at the concert.

“Some are very lyrical and lush and other are very exodus, driving and strong,” she said. “We picked a real variety of music so the kids would be able to learn different styles of ringing.”

Janet Benson, the director of the handbell group at Issaquah’s Shepard of the Hills Lutheran Church, said she and her players would try to make it to the concert to hear the youths play.

“They’re beautiful and it’s something that you don’t hear a lot,” she said. “Those who have gone to handbell concerts are very impressed with the music and the sounds that you can get out of the bells.”

The conference has two sponsors, Area 10 and Seattle group Emerald City Ringers.

If you go

Handbell concert

  • 7 p.m. March 26
  • Pine Lake Covenant Church
  • 1715 228th Ave. S.E., Sammamish
  • Admission is free.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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