To file in the random uses of handbells category, here is a piece by instrumental hip hop artist DJ Shadow that uses handbell samples to create haunting melodies. This is “Blood on the Motorway” from his album Private Press released in 2002 (the bells come in about 1:50 into the song).
From an interview with The Quietus, here is DJ Shadow’s reasoning for using handbells:
One sample, I think it came from a bell-ringing [compilation]… It’s sort of sad in a way, it speaks to what we’ve lost in the States: there used to be a real premium placed on the arts and colleges, high schools and junior high schools had a huge amount of resources dedicated to encouraging everybody to learn an instrument. So in the 50s, 60s, 70s, whatever, there’d be any number of – in this case it was a bell-ringing choir – 70 students all with bells learning how to ring bells together. That’s completely disappeared now because the only thing that matters in the States now is personal wealth, which is a farce, of course.
Handbells always have this tendency to pop up when you least expect them. Where have you heard handbells recently that you were not expecting?