As a self diagnosed bell fanatic, anytime a new handbell DVD comes out I get excited. Usually bell recordings are superbly mediocre so I didn’t have my hopes too high. However, the new DVD by the Raleigh Ringers entitled “A December Tradition” far exceeded my wildest expectations.
Two things first caught my attention, the run time and the set list. “A December Tradition” has a 126 minute run time. Most of the introductions between pieces were cut out, so you get a two full hours of stellar bell performance. Talk about getting bang for your buck. The other thing that surprised me was the list of pieces on the DVD. Out of the 26 pieces on the DVD only half of them are actual Christmas carols, proving that handbells can play something besides Christmas music. Between all the fun carols they slip in incredibly difficult pieces like “Little Fugue” and “Firebird Finale” and execute them perfectly. That is one of the things I love about the Raleigh Ringers, they can create a show that is accessible to the audience while also showing off their impressive musicianship.
Also, I have to give props to the team at UNC-TV that did the videography. The performances look stunning on the DVD, and I can’t imagine how pretty the Blu-Ray version must look (anyone with a Blu-Ray player want to let me know?). Since the Raleigh Ringers have so many different sets of bells, I often find myself wondering what combination of bells they use to create all the unique sounds on their CDs. Between the beautiful video and creative editing, you can see all the different bells on the table and get a good look at which bells are being rung. Now the challenge is identifying Whitechapel versus Petit and Fritsen versus Silver Melody Bells versus other more obscure bells. I feel like there could be a great handbell drinking game associated with this.
Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while now know that I have had some gripes in the past with artistic choices the Raleigh Ringers make (wearing tie dye does not make you any cooler), but there is no denying that the Raleigh Ringers are world class musicians who put on an outstanding show. This recording beautifully captures the showmanship and musicianship of the Raleigh in high definition, and it makes a great addition to any bell ringer’s or music lover’s collection.
Both the Blu-Ray and DVD recordings are for sale on the Raleigh Ringer’s website.
In the interest of full disclosure, Bryce and I did get the chance to meet the Raleigh Ringers this summer and the copy of the DVD I own was given to me for free in return for some writing I did for the Raleigh Ringers last fall. That does not change how much I love this DVD, however.