Concordia Handbell Choir performed at St. John Lutheran Church on April 7.
Photo by Garion Consier
By Autumn Johnson
The handbell choir program is celebrating its 40th anniversary through several events.
Professor Emeritus of Music Dr. David Held started the official handbell choir in 1979 and directed it until 2000. Professor Rebecca Dorn then directed the group until 2006 when the current director, Professor Jessica Kite, took over. Kite had been in handbells under both previous directors.
“They were both very helpful in mentoring me when I began directing the choirs in 2006,” Kite said in an email interview. “The fact that I can still visit with the choir’s first director, Dr. Held, is pretty special. He is very encouraging and provides great perspective.”
The choirs have 14 members each. Concordia Handbell Choir is an advanced group, and Handbell Choir II is for beginners. The groups include both music majors and non-music majors.
The handbell program has developed in many areas since 2006. Kite has implemented more contemporary and difficult music. The choirs have learned new techniques for ringing and added new bells and chimes to their collection. They have also recorded their first CD, called “Faithful.”
“God continues to richly bless our program in unexpected ways,” Kite said.
The handbell choirs will play music from the first years of the program along with modern pieces at their concerts.
A mass handbell ensemble for a concert in the fall will combine the Concordia handbell choirs and ringers from St. John Lutheran Church. In addition, Concordia handbell choirs will ring at other churches, on the radio and even at sporting events in celebration.
“Handbells is unique,” junior Stephanie Barry said. “(It) is important because it’s a team effort. It also teaches each player how to make their own musical decisions, but in relation to a much bigger picture.”
As the handbell program celebrates 40 years, the choirs are preparing for many more to come. Anyone interested in auditioning for handbells should contact Professor Kite.
“A lot of people assume handbells is either too simple or that it’s so difficult they could never play,” Barry said. “The truth is, yes, it can be simple (and) it can also be difficult, but if you apply yourself and put in the time, it can be fun.”
The choirs will perform their spring concert Sunday, April 28 in the Music Center Recital Hall at 3 p.m.