Handbell choirs to offer engaging variety

Office Insider
March 14, 2014
Column: Mondays
March 21, 2014

Handbell choirs to offer engaging variety

Handbell players practice for their Friday concert. Photo: Olivia Prairie

Bob Jones University’s two handbell choirs will perform a variety of engaging music today as a culmination of what they have learned over the past two semesters.

The concert, which will be held at 5 p.m. in Stratton Hall, will feature a wide variety of pieces, from original handbell pieces to music transposed from the piano. One piece students may recognize will be Schubert’s “Military March.”

“[The concert is] a combination of light music with a concert style and small recital pieces,” said Mr. Alan Lohr, who directs the choirs.

The highlight of the concert will be two Latin pieces, “Tin-Tin-a-Rhumba” and “With Tambourine and Dancing.” These pieces will be accompanied with a conga drum, a shaker and tambourines.

“I really enjoy our repertoire,” senior Christian ministries major Alec Willard said. “Even the more difficult pieces are still fun to play.”

This concert will be a joint effort of the two BJU handbell choirs: the Concert Choir and the Ensemble Choir. The Concert Choir is composed of 14 students from a wide variety of majors. These students auditioned to join the choir, and all have experience playing the handbells.

The Ensemble Choir has 12 members, most of whom are music majors who have no prior experience with handbells. These students learn to play over the course of the semester as they prepare for this concert.

“This concert is a culmination of all we’ve learned,” Lohr said.

Lohr and the late Dr. Dwight Gustafson, then dean of the School of Fine Arts, began these two choirs in 1991 with only one octave, a set of just 13 bells.

“Dr. Gustafson was responsible for securing the first set of handbells donated to the University, and the choirs were started at that point,” Lohr said.

The choirs now use six and a half octaves of bells — more than 80 handbells — as well as 72 chimes. Chimes are similar to handbells but are lighter and made with aluminum, while the bells are made of bronze. During one song a student may use up to five or six bells.

“It’s almost acrobatic in some respects,” Lohr said. “If you like light music that is fun to listen to, I would encourage you to come.”