Group Spotlight - Larry and Carla

Ringers Become Duo for Life

In the Beginning
Larry and Carla Sue started playing handbells in the late 1980s (when they were both infants, of course). At the time, they were living 5,347 miles apart. Larry was introduced to handbells at the Mount Hermon Church Music Conference in California, and Carla first encountered bells in a pub in the southeast of England. From very different handbell beginnings, it took them a mere twenty years or so to meet each other online, on a site/podcast called The Handbell Community. They soon switched to Facebook and exchanged thousands of typed messages across an eight-hour time difference.

Real-life Rehearsals at Bay View
Larry and Carla first met In Real Life at Chicago O'Hare Airport, in August 2010. From there, they flew together to the Bay View Week of Handbells in Michigan, where they spent the week rehearsing, performing, and checking that they really liked each other as much in real life as they did online. After returning to their home countries, they met again a year later and celebrated their engagement at the 2011 Week of Handbells. Fast-forward another year - and after Bay View 2012, they were able to fly home to California together. A month later, there was a wedding ceremony/handbell concert where a mighty "Wedding Ring" of amazing handbell musicians joined them in celebrating the start of their married life.

Less Leads to More
Larry and Carla moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Holland, Michigan in the summer of 2016 to be able to focus on music as a profession and still be able to pay the bills. Since then they've enjoyed arranging and performing duets that require only eight bells at a time, perhaps going against the current trend for "More bells! More octaves!" in handbell performances. Rumor has it that they're just too lazy to carry and pack away tables and foam pads, but the truth is that it's been a fascinating journey to explore just how much music can be made using such a small number of bells. Larry and Carla use Malmark handbells; their main duet set has the UK-style flattened handles and started as a used set of 14 bells purchased in England by Carla. Over the years new bells have been added to this set, to bring it up to 3 1/2 octaves. They also have an additional 4 ½-octave set of Malmark handbells.

Community Performances
Performing as a handbell duo has led Larry and Carla to some interesting places. They've played a concert inside a planetarium, in darkness (with just a couple of music stand lights to provide some illumination!). They've performed at outdoor Christmas markets in California and in Michigan (two very different experiences!) and are regular participants in the Downtown Holland Street Performers Series. They've given impromptu performances in airports and outside churches and spend twelve hours playing Christmas music at the Salvation Army Red Kettle each December. They were the featured artists for the 2018 Handbell Musicians of America Area 5 Spring Festival on Mackinac Island, (Michigan) and were also invited to perform and teach at the Area 8 Festival in Omaha, Nebraska. They play in two different four-in-hand styles; Larry uses ring-and-knock, and Carla uses the British style, and they aim to show that handbell music isn't only beautiful to listen to but a visual art as well. Larry and Carla have two websites: www.larryandcarla.com ("the purple one") and www.choraegus.com (where all their music is available to purchase, download and print).

About Larry's Music
Larry has been composing and arranging handbell music for many years. Notable titles include: "Let All Things Now Living", arranged in 11/8 (because why not?); the Donald E. Allured Composition Award piece "Coronation and Triumphant Exultation", which received its first performance at Bay View in 2017; and "A Minor Crash", premiered by the BronzeFest choir at the 2018 Area 8 festival in Omaha and on the repertoire list for the 2019 Bay View Week of Handbells. He is also the author of "The Bass Ringer's Notebook", the ultimate how-to for bass handbell enthusiasts, (second edition available from www.choraegus.com).


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