Handbell workshop inspires local ringers to spread beauty of music

by Sheila M. Leier


Handbell ringers from the Fargo/Moorhead area rehearse a piece of music during a handbell choir workshop held at Sts. Anne and Joachim Church in Fargo. (submitted photo)

Sts. Anne and Joachim Church in Fargo hosted a handbell workshop for area Catholic ringers on March 17. The 39 ringers and four directors represented Sts. Anne and Joachim Church and Nativity Church from Fargo, Holy Cross and Blessed Sacrament from West Fargo and St. Josephs’ Church in Moorhead, Minn.

Most of these choirs rehearse one night a week and play during Mass at least once a month from September-May, with the exception of Lent. Several ringers have had other opportunities to play for funerals and weddings. Holy Cross Church is also part of a Christmas Cantata.

Under the direction of Jessica Westgard-Larson, handbell director at St. John’s Lutheran in Fargo and Concordia College in Moorhead, the ringers spent the morning reviewing and learning ringing techniques. She also talked about various ways to mark music to help with accidentals, key changes, and tempo changes and gave tips to ensure smooth page turns.

Many ringers at this workshop had never been to any type of handbell event so each group was invited to play a piece of music for the other ringers to enjoy.

During the break, ringers sat by those who play the same bells in other choirs. This gave an opportunity to share techniques. The directors sat together so they could share ideas, teaching techniques, ringers, and equipment.

Following the break, it was time for the mass ringing of our pilot piece. Mass ringing involves everyone playing the same piece of music as a group. Handbell music is divided into levels and we chose a level 3 piece titled Laudamus, arranged by Arnold B. Sherman. Jessica instructed on how to mark music into sections and work through the music by rehearsing various sections and finally playing the whole piece start to finish. Everyone was surprised how quickly they learned the piece. Even though the final run through wasn’t perfect, they were proud of the progress. Some choirs will use this piece at their churches this spring.

Music ministry is a very rewarding volunteer opportunity. God calls us to share our time and talents in a variety of ways. Is he calling you to be a handbell ringer? For more information, contact any of the churches in this article.

Sheila M. Leier is an area 7 ND handbell representative and a ringer at Nativity and Sts. Anne and Joachim Churches in Fargo and Holy Cross Church in West Fargo.