How Did Hand Bells and Hand Chimes Get Included?

Evolution, Serendipitous, or Destiny?

Use of HandBells and HandChimes as part of the Hymns and Songs for Living recording may seem interesting. The use of HandBells and/or HandChimes as an accompaniment to singing of congregational hymns is not a common, everyday choice. HandBells are quite percussive and are most commonly used as a performing instrument, occassionally in combination with other instruments. HandChimes are a bit more mellow and friendly to vocal singing. So how did they get included on the Hymn and Songs for Living recording? 

This story has similarities to other stories on this website. Examples include:

The process by which HandBells and HandChimes got included has something in common with those? When David met with the minister at Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church to arrange use of their pipe organ to record replacements for the electronic keyboard simulated organ accompaniments used in Phase I, he noticed the church's set of HandBells sitting on the side of the room. Upon his observation about the HandBells being in the pastor's office, the minister informed him they were only there temporarily, while the choir room was being refurbished.  Was that just a serendipitous happenstance, or destiny?

Appeal of HandBell

That reminded David of how appealing the sounds of HandBells can be.  That sparked thinking about the possibility of including HandBells as an accompaniment to the last verse of:

Initially we reached out to the music Director at Duncan Memorial UMC, who was interested in the idea. But then the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the church went into lockdown.

That left three impediments to solve to be able to record HandBell accompaniments:

  1. Since HandBells are not generally used as an accompaniment instrument, there were no arrangements commencially available as accompaniments, or in the keys of the hymns;
  2. Finding a HandBell choir that would record during the pandemic following safety protocols; and
  3. A choir with a large set of HandBells

Research about HandBells led to information about HandChimes. The separate page about HandChimes included on this website discusses their differences. (See HandChime Differences.)

Need for Arrangements

All the music that could be found on the web for both hymns, Just A Closer Walk with Thee and Amazing Grace, were for performance by HandBells as the solo instruments, versus being an accompaniment to vocalists singing the hymns, plus, the performance scores were not in the keys of the hymns from the hymnals.

Therefore, Mr. Goettee contacted a number of persons listed on the Handbell Musicians' Association webpage where they indicated they wrote arrangements.

(If anyone is interested, the Handbell Musicians' Association webpage for handbell clinicians can be found at Handbell Clinicians.)

Of those who responded, Mr. Larry Sue had the time to undertake this project. Mr. Sue was provided with pdf copies of the music from the hymnals used to record the hymns, plus mp3s of the vocal recordings. Mr. Sue put together arrangements that included the use of Bells and Chimes.

Thus, the impediment of arrangements as accompaniments in the keys of the hymns was addressed.

You can see Mr. Sue's credits under Phase II Arrangers at Larry Sue - Handbell Arranger.

That left the topics of finding a HandBell choir that was willing to record during the COVID-19 pandemic, following appropriate health protocols, and who had a large set of Hand Bells. That resulted in locating and coordinating with the Westminster Ringers, who are discussed in detail separately. See Westminster Ringers.

Your Judgement?

So, as in the story About Tortoise Climbing, it is up to the reader to decide. Was inclusion of HandBells and HandChimes on this album a logical evolution, serendipitous happenstance, or perhaps destiny?