This year’s concert is dedicated to the memory of Ann Gartner, former director of the First United Methodist choir and an avid organizer and promoter of “Chimes and Chocolates.” She directed last year’s concert and will be greatly missed at this year’s event.
Beeville’s four church handbell choirs from First Baptist, First Presbyterian, First United Methodist and St. Philip’s Episcopal Churches will again present an evening of bell music. Each choir will ring two selections, and the four groups will ring the opening and closing hymns and two special arrangements en masse.
The women and handbell choir members of the four churches and Vineyard Board members will provide chocolate desserts following the concert for all attending. The reception will be held in the FBC Christian Activities Center.
A goodwill offering will be collected to benefit the Vineyard, which is in need of additional funds to help those in need in this community.
Carolyn Heiser, director of the FUMC choir, will direct the combined groups. Louanne LeBourveau directs the Presbyterian choir; Cymbre Bryant, the Baptist ringers, and Louise Mayberry, the St. Philip’s group.
The First Baptist Church Handbell Choir is a vital part of the church’s rich musical tradition. Given in the 1970s by the Austin E. Brown family, the bells continue to be used for worship. The use of bells in the church was a dream of Hannah Fair Sallee, Maime Sallee Bryan and Dr. Eugene Sallee, who were missionaries to China from 1903-1945. Thanks to the generous gift of their family, their dream lives on. Today the bell choir is called “Praising Hands,” reflecting the desire of the group to use their talents to praise God.
St. Philip’s choir was organized in 1985, when Pam Sumners, who had played in a bell choir in New York City, proposed the idea to the congregation. The Rev. Charles Sumners, rector of the parish at that time, borrowed a two-octave set from St. Francis Episcopal Church in Victoria for potential choir members to try out. They decided to purchase their own three-octave set with donations from church members in memory of loved ones.
The choir plays for church services and occasional community events. Several members attended a clinic at the Manchaca Methodist Church several years ago which concluded with a mass ring of many bell choirs and an English Handbell conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., a few summers ago.
The First Presbyterian Handbell Choir began in 1986 as a three-octave adult group, and a youth choir was active for a few years. Currently, the “Handbell Family” practices weekly throughout the school year and performs for church worship services and an occasional community program.
In 1996 the group held its first Christmas concert, an event that has become an annual celebration. The choir attended its first American Guild of English Handbell Ringers conference in 2000, at which they had the opportunity to attend bell ringing workshops and to play in a group of many choirs directed by a nationally recognized clinician. It was at that conference that the group members heard hand chimes for the first time and decided to purchase them for their choir. Now they play music written for both bells and chimes.
The First United Methodist Handbell Choir is the newest one in Beeville, having been organized in the fall of 1999 with Everett McAulay as the first director. Their three octaves were purchased with memorials given by church members in memory of loved ones, and they have also added hand chimes to their repertoire. They, too, play for church services from time to time.
All four choirs could use additional ringers, either as regular members or as frequent substitutes. Any community members interested in joining one of the handbell choirs are encouraged to attend the concert and speak with one of the directors at the reception.
The ability to read music is a plus, but not a necessity for ringing. Several of the present handbell choir members play by color-coded music. The main requirement is regular attendance at weekly rehearsals throughout the school year.
Being a member of a church with a handbell choir is not a requirement, either. Several bell choirs have members from other churches.