Popular handbell choir Raleigh Ringers to perform in LaGrange Saturday night

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 5, 2013 

Sally Traylor is aware there are people who are not fond of handbell music.

She figures they have heard some "not-so-stellar" performances.

However, Traylor figures just about everybody will be entertained by the Raleigh Ringers, a handbell choir appearing at First Baptist Church On the Square in LaGrange, Ga., Saturday night.

The doors open at 6 p.m. with the show starting at 7 p.m. Admission is free, though a $10 donation is suggested.

"It is just amazing what they do with handbells," Traylor said of the internationally acclaimed group based in Raleigh, N.C.

Traylor is a former high school math teacher who gives private flute and piano lessons. She volunteers as handbell director at the church.

She said she first saw the 17-musician ensemble perform about 10-12 years ago and has seen them seven times.

"I go if the ringers are in the Atlanta area," she said.

Though this performance will be in a church, the venue most associated with handbell ringers through the years, the group will play popular religious and secular music.

The musicians perform works usually not heard played on handbells, everything from "Flight of the Bumblebee" to The Who's pop classic "Pinball Wizard."

The group was formed in 1990 and is currently under the direction of David M. Harris.

The Raleigh Ringers utilize one of the most extensive collections of bells and bell-related instruments in the world, currently more than 360 pieces of equipment with a wide range of size, shape, and timbre.

The group has performed in 36 states, as well as Europe and Canada and has been heard live on the nationally syndicated Hour of Power at the Crystal Cathedral. Five CDs and a DVD have been released by The Raleigh Ringers with more than 65,000 sold.

The holiday concert featured on the DVD was also broadcast on more than 250 Public Television stations in 44 states.

The Raleigh Ringers are very involved in sharing handbell music with others. The ensemble promotes the art of handbell ringing by performing, commissioning composers to create works for handbell choirs and offering educational opportunities through classes and event scholarship.

Traylor says this is needed because music education has been pushed aside in schools. She said there is definitely a lack of musical opportunities for students.

Traylor, 54, began playing the handbells at a young age. She has about 20-25 bell ringers she works with at First Baptist. Though, other churches have bell ringers, the number is dwindling.

To be a bell ringer takes commitment. A handbell choir is like a large piano and each ringer represents a few keys. Timing is important. "It is about teamwork," Traylor said.

Paul Blair is the associate pastor and music minister at First Baptist. He is in his 21st year on the staff.

He agrees with Traylor that through the years handbell ringing has been passed over with contemporary services becoming more common but that it remains alive in some churches with traditional and blended worship services

He said First Baptist is trying to keep "all of the instruments alive."

Blair said First Baptist is a fitting place for the Raleigh Ringers to perform since music is a vital part of the church which features numerous choirs and ensembles as well as its own orchestra and music school.

"Music is an essential part of our church," Blair said.

As for the Raleigh Ringers, Blair said, "It is really exciting to see what can be done with handbells. Most people have not seen anything like this before."

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