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Handbell group rings in the Christmas season

Friday, December 11, 2009 | 3:35 p.m. CST; updated 10:11 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 12, 2009

COLUMBIA – Bells are at the heart of many beloved Christmas songs: “Jingle Bells,” “Silver Bells,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and more.

It should come as no surprise, then, that a longstanding holiday musical tradition in Columbia involves bells – more specifically, hand bells.

If you go

What: Columbia Handbell Ensemble winter concerts

Where: First Baptist Church, 1112 E. Broadway

When: 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: Adults: $6/advance, $7/door; Children under 12: $1; for advance tickets, call Ed Rollins at 442-1149.



The Columbia Handbell Ensemble will hold its 20th annual winter concerts on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon at Columbia’s First Baptist Church.

According to the hand bell choir’s Web site, the group formed in 1989 and comprises audition-only ringers from throughout mid-Missouri. It currently has 12 ringers, according to Ed Rollins, the group's director and the associate pastor for music and administration at First Baptist Church, which provides the group with rehearsal and performance space and equipment.

Rollins describes hand bell music, which he said strives to mimic one instrument's melody using five or six musicians, as a unique experience both musically and visually.

"Besides the fact that they sound very cool, it's a very visual art. You get to watch people moving at all times and changing bells. There's a lot of interest in watching and listening," Rollins said.

The group's winter concert repertoire this year includes Christmas carols from around the world, including a singalong and a take on a Mannheim Steamroller tune, and classical selections by Jean-Joseph Mouret, George Frideric Handel and Girolamo Frescobaldi.

"It makes sense this time of year," Rollins said. "People want to hear certain things. Typically, we’re going to find a couple things that they might want to sing or that might be played differently from another time of year. But we try to find music that they might want to hear."

The group performs throughout the year. Regular performances include a spring concert and a children's concert typically held in late February or early March.

The group also performs at special events and will be the featured choir at a five-state hand bell choir conference in June in Topeka, Kan., Rollins said. In anticipation of that showcase, the group will be stepping up its spring performance schedule in order to polish its craft.

"We'll be doing some concerts here and in St. Louis and Kansas City ahead of that," Rollins said. "It's going to be different. We want to be on top of our game."

In addition to their Columbia concerts this weekend, CHE will perform in Hermann on Saturday evening.


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