Local bell choir rings in its one-year anniversary

November 07, 2003|JENNIFER BRUMMETT

Janet Nash looked around at a recent practice of the Grace Presbyterian Church bell choir, known as The Grace Notes or, sometimes, The Ding-A-Lings, and smiled.

"We have quite a crew here," she said.

The assemblage of women was marking their scores appropriately for their individual parts in the upcoming Christmas program. The musical piece is called "Christmas Bells Medley." There was a faint air of wry apprehension amidst the group.

"We'll play while the (choir) sings with us," noted Nash, the conductor for the group.

That will be a first for the fledgling bell choir. Last year, The Grace Notes played its first concert around Thanksgiving.

"We started out with a song we knew in our minds," Nash explained. "We knew how the melody worked on that (song). Then we did a song we didn't know.


"The fun part is hearing the harmony," she added.

Member Joyce Duckworth says she participates because she loves the music.

"I've sung my entire life," she explained of her musical background. "This is a challenge - it's new and there's new stuff to it."

Added another member, Jenny Upton, "It's harder than you think. It's hard to ring the bells at the right time."

Carla Becraft says she plays the piano, and members of the choir told her they desperately needed more people. "And it turned out to be a ball," she said.

Then she added drolly, "The big bells are called The Ding Dongs."

The musical group adds to the church services, Nash said.

"This is an extension of the praise service," she explained. "It's something we could do. Not everyone sings or reads music."

The members of the choir, who have varying degrees of written music knowledge, have color-coded notes on their scores to identify their particular notes. Currently, the 10 women participating cover two octaves with their bells, from the G below middle C on up to the second G above middle C. All flats and sharps are included in the bells' octaves. Nash says the bell choir is eagerly anticipating the arrival of a third octave.

"We'll need men with big arms for them," Nash said. "They're bigger bells. They should be here before Christmas."

A line on the bells marks where they should be struck. All the bells are handmade. The instrumentalists wear gloves "because fingers smudge bad," Nash said.

"Gloves help keep the bells looking nice."

The choir has practiced about an hour once per week, minus about a six-week break during the summer, Nash noted. They started with "child bells," Nash said, which were simpler to hit.

"Then we went to real bells, the big-time bells that cost lots of money," she added with a grin.

The group ranges in age from 36 to 68, with one teenaged newcomer, Nash noted. The instrumentalist members of The Grace Notes group, from highest-pitched bells to lowest, are: Terry Bartuska, Upton, Duckworth, Carmen Frederick, Melissa Campbell, Pam Hawkins, Laurie Ellis, Taylor Bartuska, Debbie Wagner and Carla Becraft.

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