If there is one poem people associate most with handbells, it has to be “The Bells” by Edgar Allen Poe. In four masterfully crafted verses, Poe describes Silver Bells, Wedding Bells, Alarum Bells, and Iron Bells. Back when I was in high school, this is the poem that introduced me the the word ‘tintinnabulation’. David York, the director of Bells of the Cascades in Portland, Oregon found inspiration in this poem to create a work for bells and choir. Using the poem as lyrics, York paints a sound image of each type of bell, from the beautiful wedding bells to crazed alarum bells.
I have been waiting for the video to post since July! This was part of the National Seminar performance Bells of the Cascades gave during the 2013 Handbell National Seminar (the night after we gave our concert). In addition to directing handbells, York directs the David York Ensemble, an advanced vocal choir in the area. For this performance he brought the two groups together for what I believe was one of the first performances of this piece (I have been corrected. This piece has been around for many years).
After seeing this performance live, I hoped they would eventually post it so that I could share it with all of you. All of us in the audience were stunned by this piece. York was only in his first year working with handbells when this piece was performed, but the group nails it and captures the different styles of bells both visually and audibly. The poem is posted below the video if you want to follow along with the words.