New community handbell ensemble has plenty of 'Gale' force


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Originally Posted Online: April 26, 2013, 2:10 am
Last Updated: April 27, 2013, 1:10 pm
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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

ROCK ISLAND -- The name "Gale" sure rings a bell for members of the new Quad City Community RiverBend Bronze Community Handbell ensemble at Augustana College.

Four of the 16 ensemble players share a couple different spellings of that first name.

They said it wasn't a prerequisite for the job. But it did take an application and an audition to be selected, director Larry Peterson said.

"This group would be considered 'more advanced' in their abilities," he said. It includes a couple people who direct handbell groups at their church and three recent Augustana graduates who wanted to continue their affiliation with Mr. Peterson.

Members range in age from 25 to 60, and were selected from a group of 25 people who attended an open rehearsal.


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The new group will perform its first concert at 3 p.m. on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 12, at the college's Ascension Chapel on the second floor of Founder's Hall at 820 38th St.

The free concert will be followed by a Mother's Day Dessert Reception. A free-will offering will be accepted. For information, call Mr. Peterson at 309-794-7836.

The concert will feature many surprises, especially for people unfamiliar with handbells or those who think they're used only for religious tunes, Mr. Peterson said."An arrangement of a 'Pirates of the Caribbean' tune will be on the program."

Ensemble members also practiced a version of the Kool and the Gang hit "Celebration."Other pieces to be performed at RiverBend Bronze's first performance include "You Raise Me Up," "When We All Get To Heave," and other more traditional works.

People might think the highest level of handbells might be called gold, but it's actually bronze, Mr. Peterson said, when asked how the ensemble's name was selected. "And we wanted something in our name to reflect the rivers."

Playing songs such as "Celebration" add a real element of fun, according to Gale Baldwin, who plays bass bells for RiverBend Bronze and directs the handbell choir at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bettendorf.

"I love it," she said. "We have great camaraderie, and it gives us a wonderful opportunity to further hone our skills."

The larger bass bells can weigh up to 10 to 15 pounds, which gets pretty heavy "when you consider all the G-forces they require to pick them up and ring them," Mr. Peterson said.

Robin Gravert, 25, who said she's "the baby of the group," plays the "high bells. Yes, they're much lighter, but you have more of them to play. I'm usually in charge of four to six bells."

Low-bell players, including Stephen Swanson, of 15th Avenue Christian Church in Rock Island, tried mallets to ring bells for a while, and picked them up to ring them during a recent rehearsal.Choir members also used large floor chimes and smaller hand chimes.

Mr. Peterson clapped or verbalized the beat he wanted everyone to follow. "Interpreting rhythm is one of the most important parts of playing bells," he said. "It's more rhythmic than anything else."

During rehearsal, he compared what they were doing to the difference of going 80 miles per hour on a Texas Highway or 180, adding that "when you're going 180, there's no margin for error."

"It's a lot of fun, and we all want it to become successful," Mr. Swanson said. "We're all loving it."

"We have no real grand vision for the group yet," but a short-term goal is to prepare for an Area 8 Handbell Musicians of America Festival June 25-28, 2014, in Davenport, Mr. Peterson said.

"We would love to do more public performances," Mr. Swanson said.

"It would be nice to be able to play at other churches or places," Ms. Gravert agreed. Some churches have trouble finding enough people to play handbells, she said.

"But it's a two-edged sword," Mr. Peterson said.

It's tough to play at other churches when he and other members are required to play the same time at Augustana or at their parishes, he said.

They'll look for as many opportunities as they can to share their craft, Ms. Baldwin said, "because we want to make bell-choir music more well known and appreciated for its sound."

It's a celebration.














 



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  Today is Sunday, April 20, the 110th day of 2014. There are 255 days left in the year.

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