One of the legacy’s of Mark Slegers’ thirty-nine years as Minister of Music here at First Unitarian Church is the vibrant and diverse handbell program. Begun in 1983 in conjunction with then Director of Religious Education, Ruth Lewellen-Dix, the program was founded with a single choir for middle and high school youth and 37 bells (no chimes!). The program has surely grown! We now ring with a choir of five octaves of handbells and seven octaves of handchimes.
On Saturday, April 23, 7 pm, five handbell ensembles under the direction of Ellie Hodder, Director of Handbell Programs, will offer their best for your listening enjoyment.
• Warbington Chimes is comprised of our elementary school musicians. This ensemble was formed when our own Helen Warbington became enchanted by “that new instrument that goes so nicely with handbells”. In 1992, Helen purchased the first set of handchimes. We still use those chimes today and have added a second set to accommodate the many children who participate.
• Beacon Bells is comprised of middle school youth. Unlike many programs for young people, the handbell program is able to welcome parents whose child is hoping for a parent/child experience. These young musicians delve into the art of handbell musicianship using handbells, handchimes, singing bells, belltrees and much more. And, they are a ton of fun!
• Marguerite Bells is our high school ensemble. Like Beacon Bells, parents are welcomed. A couple parents who came “way back when”, still join in and are adored by everyone. Marguerite Bells were named for the late Marguerite Hessler Deale, director of Religious Education in the 1980’s. There isn’t much these rockin’ musicians can’t do and they are guaranteed to get you to leap to your feet with wonderment and joy.
• Chalice Bells are the new kids in the program. This ensemble was formed in 2005 with 5 musicians. The program has grown both in size and musicianship. This year, Chalice Bells brought music to our neighbors at First Baptist Church where they were welcomed as “Portland’s premier handbell ensemble”.
• Parker Bells were formed in 1985 and named for Margaret Parker, a longtime patron of our music programs. Parkers is an advanced, auditioned ensemble. Their repertoire includes transcriptions of works for other instruments, new compositions and arrangements. We are certain you will enjoy their diverse repertoire and energized playing.
All of our ensembles love you, our devoted listeners. It is our goal on Sunday mornings and at this concert to bring you a musical result that will touch your heart and please your ears. Please do join us. You make our music making complete.