Nick and Noah, a pop duo from the East Coast, are on a quest to write and record an EP for each season. While brainstorming things they wanted to include in their Winter EP handbells were one one the first things they thought of. According to Nick Frenay from the duo, “I remember always hearing the bell choir in church service when I was younger, and specifically around the holidays. As a pop duo, everything we do starts with things that we really love or are interested in, but then we try to take those things and incorporate them in a mainstream way that makes them as accessible as possible.” The result is an excellent 5 minute song that melds handbells and choir with Nick and Noah to create a catchy and beautiful holiday tune. Last week they released the music video for the piece, entitled “Bells Are Ringing”.
The ringers featured in the video are part of the Back Bay Ringers (BBR), a community group from the Boston, Massachusetts area. Griff Gall, the Artistic Director for BBR, said that, “BBR loves unusual collaborations, so we were excited to jump into this project.” Nick and Noah both have extensive backgrounds in classical and jazz music, but neither of them had played bells before. Nick commented, “We definitely needed a bit of schooling and direction from the Back Bay Ringers artistic director Griff Gall, who lucky for us was extremely communicative and helpful in terms of letting us know what was possible range-wise and dynamically, just kind of the logistical ins and outs of the instrument, as well as handbell-specific notation stuff.”
However, you would never know Nick and Noah had little handbell experience before writing this piece. The bell part is intricate and featured prominently multiple times. While most seasonal pieces use only a handful of bells to create some holiday fluff, “Bells Are Ringing” is a great example of how bells can be used in pop music as a serious instrument. When asked what he thought of the piece, Greg Urban, one of the ringers featured in the video, said “I LOVE the final product. It’s actually a really good song…and they wrote the part surprisingly well for non-handbell people”.
“After the video shoot, the ringers all posed with us for a picture and let us hold a bell each and I was so giddy,” commented Nick. “I really wished we had booked them for hours and hours just so we could play around with the things and experiment!”