- Grove City, Pennsylvania

December 1, 2011

Celebration concert Tuesday will include 'the Celeb'

By Katelyn Struthers/Allied News Correspondent
Allied News

GROVE CITY — The Celebration Ringers have practiced and polished their skills to prepare for their community handbell holiday concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Tower Presbyterian Church on Broad Street in Grove City.

Members hail from Slippery Rock, Grove City and Mercer, along with a Grove City College student from Ohio, and many are also members of church bell choirs.

"We just really love to ring!" said Donna "DJ" Wagner, a member of the Celebration Ringers as well as a GCC physics professor.

"This concert will feature many different styles of handbell ringing, including several solo pieces by nationally acclaimed handbell soloist Sue Garton," Wagner said.

The 12-member group is all women, with the exception of GCC student Russ Quick, who also plays the cello in the college orchestra.

Handbell choirs are a unique musical experience, with both bells and choir chimes used.

The bells are played with traditional ringing, or by laying them down and playing them with mallets to achieve a different song.

There is a foam board that they lay the bells upon both for protection, and by striking the board with the bells to achieve a different sound. The foam board is called the martellato technique.

There are many other ways one can play the bells, which cover five octaves.

Slated for Tuesday's program are the "Celeb," Garton,  and the Glenn Memorial Ringers handbell choir from Tower.

Garton, who lives in Slippery Rock, is a handbell soloist with limited vision, but travels all over the country giving handbell solo concerts and workshops. Her vision has gotten worse recently due to surgery.

The director of the Tower choirs, also a computer science professor at GCC, Dr. David Adams, will present a vocal solo for their piece entitled "Night of Silence."

The arrangement adds "Silent Night" in handbells in counterpoint to the solo melody.

Other selections being performed are a mix of classical, church and Christmas music.

Tower's "Kids for Christ" after-school program members will demonstrate "change ringing" on choir chimes.

Change ringing refers to the technique of ringing the bells in timed patterns to which there is no conventional melody.

The group is directed by Marilyn Hines of Slippery Rock, a past president of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers.

The ringers will be performing a piece at the end of the performances that was arranged in her honor. The piece, an arrangement of "King of Kings," was written in honor of Hines' birthday two years ago and will be directed by her daughter during the performance.

This fall the ringers have overcome several challenges to staff a nearly full choir with some members covering two positions. They are always looking to have new ringers join the group.

The Celebration Ringers is largely composed of the Glenn Memorial Ringers of members and friends of Tower church.

The Glenn Memorial Ringers started more than 20 years ago by the then director of music, Kathy Sawyer.

The choir received the name because the money used to purchase the first four octave set of Shulmerich bells came from money which had been donated to Tower Church in memory of the Glenn family of Grove City.

The Celebration Ringers started over 10 years ago to offer ringers in the area the opportunity to ring a wider variety of music and more advanced bell music than is available through their church choirs.

The choir also provides the opportunity to ring secular music which the ringers could not ring in a church setting.

It is also a chance to meet other ringers in the handbell community.

The Celebration Ringers also participate in handbell festivals and workshops.

One of those fests is the "North Hills Handbell Festival" in late April, which Hines organizes.

It starts with workshops on a Friday night, continues with massed practice Saturday, and ends with a concert Saturday night. There is usally a guest conductor, and between 15 and 30 choirs attend.

"Handbells comprise a unique musical instrument, providing a stunning visual experience as well as beautiful music.  Handbell ringing requires great coordination between ringers, as each ringer plays a different part of the instrument," Wagner said.

The ringers also have a "twelve-bell" ensemble that plays in the community. They'll perform at the Howard Hannah Chow-Chow dinner and at Olde Towne Light Up on Dec. 1.

The group is also available to play at functions.

To join the ringers, call 724-458-7260 and leave a message for DJ Wagner. Donations are welcome and will help replace equipment and buy new music. Published Nov. 23, 2011 in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201A Erie St., Grove City.