Robin Folk and Sharon Hartman make mighty music with English “White Chapel” handbells, at First United Methodist Church. (Photo by Steve Auyer)
By Russ Tarby
The tintinnabulation of the First United Methodist Church Handbell Choir will resonate to the chapel rafters when it performs “Prayer for Peace” by Michael Helman, at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, May 21. The renowned “Purple Door Church” is located at 604 Oswego St., and has plenty of parking; liverpoolfirstumc.org; (315) 457-5180.
Helman’s “Prayer for Peace” was originally written in response to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, explains handbell choir Director Meribeth “Becky” Dunstone.
“Our morning worship services will honor first responders and those who help keep us safe,” she said. “Helman’s piece is a prayer for the end of terrorism and peace throughout our world.”
The 14-member handbell choir, also known as the Wesley Bell Ringers, usually makes its jubilantly jangling music at the church itself, the swinging musicians sometimes take their talents out into the world.
On June 10 and 11 the bell choir will do just that. They’ll ring their five octaves of White Chapel bells made in London and four octaves of Malmark Chimes when it collaborates with the Liverpool Community Chorus for two “Curtain Up” concerts at Liverpool High School Auditorium, 4338 Wetzel Road, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 10 and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 11.
The two groups will ring and sing an arrangement of “As the Deer” by Douglas Wagner. Tickets for the LHS concerts cost $12, and kids ages 18 and younger are admitted free; (315) 715-8655
The bell choir will play five other pieces during the June 10 and 11 concerts, including “Gaudio Exsultans” by Valerie Stephenson, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by Tammy Waldrop, and two more Douglas Wagner compositions, “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Clarinetist Michael King will be featured on “You Raise Me Up,” a song originally composed by Irish-Norwegian duo Secret Garden before being arranged for bells by Joel Raney.
Dunstone is an alumna of the Crane School of Music in Potsdam and did her graduate work at Syracuse University. She taught string music in the Liverpool and West Genesee school districts from 1966-2006, and served as director of music at Liverpool First United Methodist Church from 1972-2006.
Over the years, the bell choir has performed at out-of-town handbell festivals at Ithaca College, Kutztown Pennsylvania, Bucknell University, Patterson, New Jersey, and Buffalo.
The Wesley Ringers are Cathy Bovee, Robin Czachowski, Larry Dunstone, Sarah Jo Elliott, Robin Folk, Sharon Hartman, Laraine and Rebecca Humbert, Kirstin and Jared King, Marty Koehler, Keith Miller, Bethany Murphy and Sue Stagnitta.
The handbell choir is open to high-school students and adults. The choir rehearses on Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m. and plays once a month at both Sunday services.