How Did HandBells
and HandChimes Get Included?



Evolution, Serendipitous, or Destiny?

Use of HandBells and HandChimes as part of the Hymns and Songs of My Mother recording may seem a bit unusual, since use of handbells and/or handchimes as an accompaniment to singing of congregational hymns is not an everyday occurance. Handbells are quite percussive and are most commonly used as a performing instrument, occassionally in combination with other instruments. Handchimes are a bit more mellow and friendly to vocal singing.

So how did they get included on the Hymns and Songs of My Mother recording?  The process by which HandBells and HandChimes got included seems to have been a similar evolution, serendipitous event or destiny to the following other similar examples:

  1. In the story About TortoiseClimbing, the question is posed about whether the original creation of TortoiseClimbing for private recordings, and then its evolutions:
  2. In the story about the Associate Producer, Mr. Bill McElroy, it is observed this is a small world, because one of the events early in his life was working for Edgewood Studios, where the director, and operatic singer, of David’s college choir recorded multiple albums.

The idea of including handbells was precipitated by David's meeting with the minister at Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church arranging use of their pipe organ to record replacement accompaniments for the electronic keyboard simulated organs used on a number of hymns in Phase I. During that meeting, David noticed the church's set of handbells temporarily sitting on the side of the minister's office. He mentioned it seemed unusual for handbells to be stored in the minister's office. The minister informed him they were there while the choir room was being refurbished.

Appeal of HandBells

That little discussion about handbells reminded David of how appealing the sound of handbells can be, which sparked thinking about the possibility of including handbells as an accompaniment to the last verse of:

Since those handbells normally would not have been in the minister's office, was that a serendipitous happenstance, or destiny?

Initially David and Mr. McElroy reached out to the music Director at Duncan Memorial UMC, who was interested in the idea of their handbell choir participating in making a recording. But then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and like most other churches, they went into lockdown.

To make the idea of including handbells a reality, there were four impediments to solve:

  1. Since handbells are not generally used as an accompaniment instrument, there were no arrangements commercially available as accompaniments, and in the keys of the hymns;
  2. Finding a handbell choir that would record during the pandemic following safety protocols;
  3. A handbell choir with a large set of handbells, and
  4. Finding a recording engineer who had the necessary equipment and was willing to take that equipment to record the handbell choir on location.

Note. Research about handbells led to information about handchimes. A separate page about handchimes is included on this website that discusses their differences. (See HandChime Differences.)


Need for Arrangements

All the handbell music found on the web for both hymns, "Just A Closer Walk with Thee" and "Amazing Grace," were for performance by handbells as the solo instruments, versus being an accompaniment to vocalists singing the hymns. Plus, those performance scores were not in the keys of the hymns from the hymnals.

Therefore, Mr. Goettee contacted a number of persons listed on the Handbell Musicians' Association webpage where they indicated they wrote arrangements.

(If anyone is interested, the Handbell Musicians' Association webpage for handbell clinicians can be found at Handbell Clinicians.)


Of those who responded, Mr. Larry Sue had the time during the COVID-19 pandemic to undertake this project. Mr. Sue was provided with scores indicating the key of the music in pdf format from the hymnals used to record the hymns, plus mp3s of the vocal recordings to provide a feel for the performance style used. Mr. Sue put together arrangements that included the use of Bells and Chimes.

That addressed the impediment of arrangements as accompaniments in the keys of the hymns.

You can see Mr. Sue's credits under Phase II Arrangers at Larry Sue - Handbell Arranger.


Interested Handbell Choir

The next 2 impediments were:

  1. Finding a handbell choir willing to record during the COVID-19 pandemic, following appropriate health protocols, and
  2. Who had a large set of handbells.

There are such handbell choirs in the Washington, DC metro area, but presumably because of the pandemic lockdown, they did not answer inquiries about possible interest. That resulted in locating and coordinating with the Westminster Ringers who agreed to make a recording. They are discussed in detail separately. See Westminster Ringers.

Audio Engineer for on Location Recording in Westminster, MD

The assistant director of the Westminster Ringers suggested a person in the Westminster area who had previously recorded them. However, he advised he was stepping back from being active in making recordings. (Could the pandemic have influenced that decision?) However, he was very helpful in providing background information about the Carroll Arts Center where the on location recording was going to be made, and provided all needed mic stands so they did not need to be transported. For information on him and the location see Mr. Gordon Masters and the Carroll Arts Center..

David searched the internet for a recording engineer in the area of Maryland around Westminster, and found a recording studio in Thurmont, MD. The engineer there indicated he was amenable to traveling to Westminster to record the Ringers.

However, in a subsequent conversation with Mr. McElroy, audio engineer and associate producer for Phase II, he indicated he had the capabilities to do on location recording, and was willing to drive from Ashland, VA to Westminster, MD for an overnight trip to record the Ringers., which is what we did.

Your Judgement?

So, as in the story About the evolution of Tortoise Climbing to now include multiple components, it is up to the reader to decide. Was inclusion of handbells and handchimes as accompaniments on this album a logical evolution, serendipitous happenstance, or perhaps destiny?

 


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