With stockings decorating the office, evergreens lining the cafeteria and students whistling carols under their breaths, Christmas spirit has almost completely transformed the Storied Cloisters into a “Winter Wonderland,” except for the missing echoes of hand bells.
The sound of bells has always been a welcomed tradition of the holidays, but the SJS Handbells was unable to put together a show in time for Christmas this year. Members must commit to rehearsing during a second period study hall in order to accommodate faculty sponsor Stephen Bedford’s schedule.
“We had enough people going into Handbells this year, but students needed their free periods,” previous hand bell member senior Cameron Childress said. “We tried our hardest to recruit as many people as possible, but Mr. Bedford wants a certain amount of octaves to be played so we always need at least 12 people.”
Two years ago, Handbells made appearances at chapels, Candlelight and choral concerts.
“My first year, we had Handbells t-shirts that said ‘Southern Bells’,” former Head Prefect Samantha Heinle (’12) said. “In my second year we made sweatshirts that said “Varsity hand bells” and had our last name and the bells we played on the back. We were every bit as legit as football.”
“It was fun seeing how so many seemingly disparate parts could come together into something so beautiful sounding,” previous hand bells member senior Emory Strawn said.
Handbells started as an alternative way to complete fine arts credits. Like Chamber Strings and the Choir programs, Handbells counts as half of a fine arts credit.
“Our repertoire was mostly Disney songs, which reminded a lot of people of their childhoods,” Heinle said. “It’s also a great way to fulfill fine arts credits by playing Disney songs from your childhood without having to know an instrument or being able to sing, and you get the experience of being part of a performing ensemble.”
“My most memorable moment with the group was at Candlelight when we had to use book lights because it was so hard to see the music in the dark,” Childress said. “I just want to see Handbells continue.”