Spotlight on Performance - The First Church Handbell Ministry
How We Ring Noel!
The First Church Handbell Ministry began in the fall of 1986. Since that time the ministry has grown from one adult 3-octave bell choir to a fully graded program boasting multiple groups. Currently there are three active adult teams, one active adult advanced quartet, two active youth ensembles and two active children's groups (chimes and bells.) Ringers participate in worship services and the ministry also hosts two benefit concerts annually, "Pops" in the spring and "Ring Noel" in December. We asked Carla David, Handbell Coordinator, to share how they create the magic of their traditional Ring Noel concert which had 800 people in attendance in 2016! We hope it will inspire you. See more on their website:
What's the Motivation?
- Added goals for your ringers – we found our adult handbell teams worship performances twice a semester didn't provide enough goals to keep them busy.
- Additional ministry opportunity – benefitting someone in our local congregation or community brings extra meaning to our musical events.
- Involving the audience provides an extra ministry opportunity for them and for us.
- Ring Noel is a fundraiser for the Round Rock Area Serving Center. We encourage audience members to bring sacks of canned goods as "ticket" to entrance for the concert. We also take a monetary offering - again, for the Round Rock Area Serving Center. We were thrilled to collect over $4,000 in offering in addition to the sacks of donated food!
The More the Merrier!
- Involve other musical ensembles in your church. For example, our most advanced youth team provides the prelude music for Ring Noel.
- Using other instruments throughout provides timbre changes in addition to the spoken word and brings in audience members to see them.
- Bring in your vocal choir for the addition of voices and story text.
Tap into Non-Music Talent
- Each year Ring Noel is designed by Handbell Coordinator, Carla David, and an associate pastor who write the script together. Each year is unique.
- The theme is supported by the sounds of bells, voices, instruments plus a video and/or a scripted character.
- Show team includes: a costuming mistress, a graphic designer, start-up adult bell team Ring of Joy are usher, photographers, videographers and a tech crew.
- We begin writing the script together in late summer which is the basis for other elements of the show.
- Besides the jobs these volunteers do it's very important that they also bring folks to the show who normally might not want to attend a bell concert.
Putting it All Together
- Ring Noel is divided into two sections: sacred and secular.
- The sacred portion is first and is obviously the focus; it comprises at least 2/3 of the evening's performance.
- Repertoire is collected - all supporting the year's script. The two 5-octave bell teams prepare 6-7 selections each.
- There is one big choral selection performed by our Choral Union.
- Changes between selections can be covered by a scripted character, video or an instrumental/vocal selection.
- It's a priority to follow the flow of the Christmas story. For example, Ring Noel 2016 (entitled Hallelujah) followed the musings of the prophetess "Anna," whose story is found in the 2nd chapter of Luke's Gospel. The title of the show, Hallelujah, is used frequently in what Anna says during her 6 short scripts.
- Lighting effects are used to support the flow and to create appropriate mood during the main part of the show. Lights come up for the secular portion!
- Most years' the show concludes with a big sing-along using bells-choir-brass-audience sing-along.
It would be much easier to simply line up the bell ringers and play Christmas selections, but the time it takes to design Ring Noel has paid off for ringers and audience alike. Many people tell us this event launches their Advent/Christmas season each year!