I can hardly believe that tomorrow is the last Sunday in Lent and next week is already Palm Sunday! During the Sundays in Lent, instead of an opening hymn accompanied by the organ, we have been using processional introits based on Gregorian melodies, interspersed with handbell peals written by Carl Crosier.
LCH’s five octaves of handbells were cast from the foundry of Petit and Fritsen at Aarle-Rixtel, Holland, and of course, had to be custom-made to fit the tuning of our organ (A=444). In contrast to English handbells which have major third overtones, our Dutch bells have a strong minor third overtone, which makes them sound like tower bells. The bells were purchased in 1980 after about a ten year period of always borrowing bells from other churches such as Trinity Lutheran in Wahiawa, Kokokahi in Kaneohe and St. Andrew’s Priory. The bells cost $8,000 plus $2,000 in shipping and funds were raised via a Buy-A-Bell program. By the way, the Petit & Fritsen Foundry no longer makes handbells.
For the dedication, Carl wrote a setting of Psalm 98 using all 61 bells! We had 61 members of the congregation, each with a bell in hand, stand in a huge circle while we performed this piece. As I remember, there were four massive chords in the refrain, reminiscent of the tone clusters by Olivier Messiaen. Suffice it to say this piece has never been performed again.
In contrast to standalone, solo handbell choirs which are found in other churches, we at LCH use the bells liturgically–the bells are always used in combination with voices, mostly as punctuations to chant to help maintain the pitch, in the style invented by composer Peter Hallock.
In addition to the five-octave set, Carl and I personally purchased a two-octave set of Petit and Fritsen bells which we used to take with us when we gave liturgical handbell workshops on the mainland.
In my previous life (1983-1989), I was the handbell teacher at St. Andrew’s Priory and taught 17 handbell classes a week! The girls became very proficient at ensemble ringing, and went to handbell conventions on the mainland. We even played for the governor! After 6 years of daily ding-dongs, though, I got ding-donged out! My successor was (no kidding!) Pam Bell.