It already weighs in excess of 300lbs and requires all nine members working together to play it, but for the Oliver Handbell Ringers, their three-octave handbell set still was not a big enough challenge. The dream of expanding the set they have played for more than 10 years has finally come to fruition with the arrival of three ‘Really Big Bass Bells’ in time for the Christmas season.
“They are here, they are big, and they sound absolutely beautiful.” says director Helen Wollf, Oliver Handbell Ringer’s Music Director. “We have dreamed for years about being able to add to the bass and we are very excited to finally have the bells here in Oliver, ready to be rung during our Christmas performances this season!”
Purchased brand new, bass handbells can cost thousands of dollars each. The three new additions to OHR’s collection were purchased second hand from Virginia, USA. Each comes with a different story spanning well over a decade but are in excellent condition and have actively been part of the group’s rehearsals during the fall season.
“The purchase of the bass bells added to the equipment we have currently allows us to play music scored for five octaves,” says Wollf. “It also adds to the fullness of sound that we can create.” A standard set of handbells for a group to ring is three octaves in size, but is limiting to groups as they improve their proficiency and find that more advanced music is often scored for four or five octaves of bells.
“Without increasing the range of handbells we have, a lot of music we would like to play remains inaccessible to us.” explains Wollf. “Now we can share a greater range of music with our audiences. Be sure to come take an up-close look at our newest additions after the concert.”
Made of cast bronze and measuring over a foot in length, the bass bells take some serious effort to lift and ring, let alone doing so with accurate timing and considerable speed.
“I certainly don’t have to hit the gym after rehearsal,” says Devin Riley, one of the primary bass bell ringers for OHR, “I already get enough weightlifting in with these bells!”
Oliver Handbell Ringers will be ringing up to five octaves of handbells in their upcoming Christmas concerts on Friday December 14th at 7:30 pm and Sunday December 16th at 3:00 pm in their new venue, Oliver Alliance Church. Admission is free and all ages are welcome.