Residents and visitors in Western North Carolina have two chances to see the Brasstown Ringers this year. Brasstown Ringers will present its 2011 concert program, “Christmas Bells” on Friday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown. This concert is free but donations are accepted. Then, on Friday, Dec. 16, the group performs at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Franklin, 85 Sierra Dr., at 6 p.m. as part of the Unitarians’ community concert series. Tickets can be reserved at (828)524-6777 or are available at the door the evening of the performance. Tickets are $15.
“Christmas Bells” has a unique mixture of selections based on well-loved Christmas favorites, some pieces with roots in the 1700s, and a few selections with a modern flair. People will recognize “O Little Town of Bethlehem” arranged by Cathy Moklebust. Another well-known carol is Arnold Sherman’s cleverly arranged “We Three Kings.” The audience is introduced to the exotic far east by the sound of the Wisemen’s caravan approaching in the distance. The carol then grows in richness and sound as it draws near and then passes by on its way to the Christ child.
The concert mixes these well-known pieces with music of lesser known pieces. For those familiar with Handel’s “Messiah,” you will recognize parts of it in Cynthia Dobrinski’s “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People.” Another handbell piece which has origins in the 1700s is Arnold Sherman’s “Masters in this Hall.” Originally written as a sprightly French dance tune, words were added around 1860 and it became alternately known as “Nowell, Sing We Clear.” Some of the pieces with a bit of a modern flair are the Dobrinsky’s jazzy “Rise Up Shepherd and Follow” with clarinet. Betty Garee’s “God With Us For All Time” mimics Westminster Bells in the beginning and ends with the joyous ringing of all the bells of London.
Brasstown Ringers began in 1992 with three octaves of bells and seven musicians. Of these musicians, only two had ever rung handbells before; the rest were pianists or string players but all were eager to learn the art of handbell ringing. Rehearsals were held in the new dining hall of the John C. Campbell Folk School until September of 1994 when they moved to the director’s residence in Brasstown. In 1998 they increased their arsenal of bells to five octaves and bought their first three octaves of choir chimes. Since then the bells have grown to six and a half octaves, five octaves of Whitechapel bells from England, and six octaves of choir chimes
To ring all these bells and chimes takes from 12-15 people. Fewer people means every ringer has more “toys” to play with and more members means more bell depth and extra percussion. No matter how many ringers in the choir it’s agreed that it is tremendous fun and the group keeps coming back for more. Members come from a 100-mile radius once a week to practice for 2-3 hours. The group plays moderate to advanced handbell music. Group members include: Bruce Brunner, Chris Currin, Brian Fagan, Liza Lawrence, Pat Love, Henry Meinecke, Linda Sterrett, Dianne Schickedantz, Mark Schickedantz, Mary Simmons, Travis Vaughn, and Glenda Wattenbarger. The director is Pat Meinecke.
If you are interested in learning more specialized bell techniques or just want to join the fun, talk to the director after a concert or call (828)837-8822 to work out lesson times.
Submitted by Dianne Schickedantz