An Open Letter to the Handbell Community

Posted By Derek Nance on Oct 3, 2012 | 6 comments

Dear Handbell Community,

We believe handbells can become a mainstream instrument.  There is too much of a novelty factor surrounding handbells today.  The general public tends to see bell ringing as either something to listen to at church, an instrument elementary school kids learn (like the recorder), or a Christmas staple (next to the Santa Clause in the mall).  This trend started when Barnum and Bailey brought bells to America as a vaudeville act in the 1800s, and we really haven’t progressed far from it. Those of us in the “bell world” know how awesome bells are when played well, but that fact is not well know else where.

We believe that handbells can attract a younger audience.  I want to have screaming fans at our concerts.  Celtic dancing did it with Lord of the Dance and Riverdance, so why can’t bells?  We need to have handbell “rock bands”.  This is not to say that all handbell choirs need to drop their liturgical music and start playing Beatles.  Look at the cello, for instance.  That instrument in the past 400 years has morphed from only being an orchestra instrument to backing the Beatles, rocking out like Apocalyptica, and playing bluegrass.  The bell world needs to start branching out the same way.

We believe that handbells have to sell themselves better.  There are very few good recordings of handbell ensembles out there, and even fewer good websites with information about the art form.  Kids across the world should be sharing handbell videos on their Facebook pages and Tumblers.  If we can’t prove that we can play handbells well, then no one will believe us.

Our goal with this blog is to explore ways the bell world can branch out and become mainstream.  Many organizations, like the Handbell Musicians of America, have recognized that the art of handbell ringing needs to reinvent itself, but it is going to take a grass roots effort of ambitious ringers across the nation to really make a change.


The Handbell Brothers