Sweets and sweet music
by Jason Collins
Apr 11, 2010 | 1367 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rebecca Ready and Sarah Draper practice Wednesday evening with other members of the handbell choir at First United Methodist Church in preparation for the upcoming Chimes and Chocolates concert on April 16. The concert is a benefit for the Vineyard and will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Beeville.
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For the past four months, the choirs of four Beeville churches have been practicing.

Their bell choirs have been ringing out the notes making sure everyone is ready.

It’s time for Chimes and Chocolates — the annual fundraiser for the Beeville Vineyard. This year’s concert will be held Friday, April 16, at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church.

Chimes and Chocolates is the brainchild of Margaret Moser and the other women of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.

“The music is handbell music,” said Kay Past, musician and one of the event coordinators. “They are played by four bell choirs.

“If you have not heard bell choir music, it is like hearing a whole bunch of choral lines playing together.”

The choirs come from First Baptist, First Presbyterian, First United Methodist and St. Philip’s Episcopal churches. They will all perform individually 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 First United Methodist Church fellowship hall, which may be entered through the newly completed and dedicated welcome center.

So why chocolates and chimes? Well, the name had a nice “ring” to it, but, as Past said, “who doesn’t like chocolate?”

And there will be more varieties of chocolate than most people think exist, Past said. “You can get your chocolate fix very easily.”

Most of the desserts will be cookies but there will also likely be chocolate-covered fruit, including strawberries, along with mints and candies.

This will be the sixth year that the choirs have gathered to raise money for the Vineyard.

“It has become one of the Vineyard’s best fundraisers,” Past said. “The Vineyard has to have money to continue helping people.”

This year, she said, they hope to raise another $1,000 for the Vineyard.

While giving to a beneficial cause is worthwhile, there is another reason Past is encouraging people to attend.

“It is also fun for people to enjoy the music that we are making ourselves, which is, for me, a whole lot better than listening to something on a radio, television or CD,” Past said.

There is no admission fee for the concert but instead an offering is collected at the end of the performances.

Directors of the bell choirs will be: Louise Mayberry of St. Philip’s choir, Louanne LeBourveau of the Presbyterian choir, Ralph Howell of the Baptist ringers and Carolyn Heiser of the FUMC choir.

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 years ago members attended an English handbell conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., and also a clinic at the Manchaca Methodist Church, which concluded with a mass ringing by many bell choirs.

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 this 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 also have added hand chimes to their repertoire.

All four choirs desire 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.
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