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Handbells and the Church
by Malcolm Wilson - Elder of the Kirk Session of Dunblane Cathedral, Church of Scotland
A handbell ministry is considered by many to be a microcosm of the church at large, and in the last few decades there has been a tremendous resurgence of interest in handbells across the globe in churches of many denominations.
“Handbell playing, unlike playing an instrument such as the organ, is not only a musical but also a visual performance: player movement, clothing, facial expressions, handbell choreography - it's all seen and heard. To begin with in a handbell ensemble, great grounding in music is not necessary, but a musical ear, sense of rhythm and musicality is desirable. The key is willingness to give their time, strength and work together towards the common goal - a perfect musical performance. Only the most distinguished ensembles manage to connect their music making with expression. For us, our handbell ensemble serves to be the instruments of the church. Not for nothing are our handbell ensemble performances mainly held in churches. And not just because of the good acoustics, here plays a major role in direct spiritual presence in the atmosphere.”
- Juris Lubējs, Director, Slokas Zvani, of Sloka Evangelical Lutheran Church, Latvia
The historical foundation for handbell ringing can be traced right back to the earliest Christian Church but the handbell of today bears little resemblance to its primitive counterpart of yesteryear and has developed into a sophisticated instrument with its own tonal colour and vast range of techniques at the disposal of the musician. The various makes of handbell available have now been supplemented by the choice of Belleplates and handchimes (played in the same manner as handbells and using the same music).
“Bells are the voice of the Church” - St Jerome
Little wonder that today it is asserted that handbell ringing is the fastest growing medium for music education in the world with churches playing a leading role in this growth.