For whom the bells toll: Ringers sound their chiming instruments

Amanda Browning (left), sophomore family studies major, practices with the handbell choir every Monday and Wednesday. The students prepare for a recital Nov. 18. | Photo by Deanna Santangelo

By Ming Tay

People walking down the corridor of the second floor of Jennings Hall from 4–5 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays will catch the sound of bells faintly ringing into a song.

“Nice and gentle,” said Dr. Joshua Veltman, associate professor of music, to the members of the handbell choir as he swayed the conductor’s baton in his hand. Sweet melodies filled the practice room. The choir concentrated, reading their music sheets while ringing their bells. Occasionally, they would lift their heads and glance at the conductor. They formed a slight smile when they rang the incorrect note.

Students in the handbell choir are not only music majors, but students of other majors, such as pharmacy and nursing.

Ringers hold a shiny bell that makes a distinct note, but some ringers hold a few small bells all in one hand.

“We laugh more than we play,” said Miranda Jackson, sophomore elementary education and teaching English as a second language double major.

The students in the choir say playing handbells is enjoyable and relaxing after a day of hard classes.

Tiffany Armstrong, sophomore music education major, had experience playing handbells before joining the choir and said playing helps her to maintain her skills and brightens stressful days.

Playing handbells requires teamwork. A ringer is usually assigned to handle a few bells, two to four bells in the lower-register and four to eight the higher-register. When it is necessary to play a note, the ringer will ring the bell, sounding a note.

Since a ringer is only responsible to play certain notes, it is crucial for each ringer to play his or her part for flawless song performances.

“Every single player is critical for the success in the group,” Veltman said.

Leading the students in the handbell choir has been a rewarding experience, he said. He said he enjoyed interacting with the students while playing  great music.

“The students are a lot of fun, cooperative and respectful. We joke around,” he said.

The handbell choir is having a concert Nov. 18 at the Hartley Recital Hall and will also participate in “A Union Christmas.”

“If you have handbell experience, please look for information for auditions,” Veltman said.

Auditions are open to all Union students.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.