Where Handbells, History, and Art Meet

Posted By Derek Nance on Apr 4, 2013 | 2 comments

abstract painting of a handbell
As a self professed stalker of handbells on the internet, I spend lots of time reading about all the handbell happenings around the world through Facebook.  The Scottish Regional Association of the Handbell Ringers of Great Britain’s Facebook page (HRGB Scotland) caught my attention recently because of the colorful handbell themed artwork that has been posted there.  Every week or so a new piece of art is posted in the style of a famous artists on the anniversary of that artist’s birth or death.  For instance, the image on the right was posted on March 7th in the style of Piet Mondiran who was born that day in 1872.  I rarely ever see art specifically created about handbells (if you follow us on Tumblr you’ll know I got excited recently about a handbell gif I found), so I set off to find out where this handbell art was coming from.

Curiosity lead me to Malcolm Wilson, the administrator of the HRGB Scotland Facebook page.  One exchange of messages between Wilson and myself immediately told me that I was talking to a true handbell enthusiast.  The banner at the top of Wilson’s personal website proclaims him to be “Britain’s most widely published composer/arranger for the handbell medium”, and he certainly has quite a long list of publications to back up that claim.  Founder of the Dunblane Cathedral Handbell Ringers, organist, organizer of the National Ring in Praise Handbell Seminars, and recipient of an Honorary Life Membership for the Handbell Ringers of Great Britain, Wilson has had a long history in the handbell community.

I created the artist-themed handbell images as a way of connecting music, art and history – and for a bit of fun.”


MC Escher Handbell drawing

When asked where the inspiration for the art came from, Wilson said that he “trawl[s] a number of history-related online sites to find anniversaries of events (including births and deaths of notable individuals in history).” He then “[Creates] the artist-themed handbell images as a way of connecting music, art and history – and for a bit of fun.”  Considering most bell groups post only group photos or their next concert flier, it is refreshing to see something original posted to Facebook.  I know it keeps me heading back to their page to see what is new.  The point of having a Facebook page is to stay engaged with fans between concerts, and this series of artwork does just that.  Now I am pondering what I can do to make my group’s Facebook page more engaging.  What have you seen that works well?

However, there are no spoilers from Wilson.  Asked what to expect next, he responded vaguely. “It can sometimes take considerable time to identify an artist who has an anniversary to coincide with a specific date, along with a style which will translate to a handbell image, and on which day I will have the necessary time and creative muse.” He added, “Those interested in seeing what might come next are encouraged to follow www.facebook.com/HRGBScotland“.

I know I’ll be back to see what is new.