The Bridgehampton Bell Choir, directed by Tom White, Sag Harbor Bell Choir, directed by Walter Klauss, and Southampton Bell Choir, directed by Midge Fowler, are partnering for an unmissable spring affair. The trio will present An English Handbell Benefit Concert at First Presbyterian Church in Southampton on Saturday, April 14.
The yearly performance began as a way to give back to those in need after a natural disaster. “The first spring ring occurred shortly after a disastrous hurricane struck the Gulf. The national magazine for handbell directors made mention of a parish who had lost their handbell set due to the storm,” White explained. “We took up a collection in hopes of helping that church obtain a set of bells.”
While their good deed didn’t quite work out as planned, it did spark an annual campaign against local hunger that will support East End-based food pantries. “However, as it turns out, the church and minister were at odds and we never heard from them for over a year, as the minister had control of the email and had just left the parish. So, we decided we would try and focus our energies in local needs,” White said. “Two of the directors worked in our respective pantries and we thought that was a deserving ministry.”
Eventually, the unique partnership between the three local choirs garnered the attention of the publication that inspired the event in the first place. “As it turned out, we mentioned our concert traditions to that same national handbell guild magazine, and they featured our concert work in the national magazine just last year,” White said. “There wasn’t anything similar they were aware of and the publishers thought it deserved recognition.”
The 2018 iteration will encompass a variety of works – patriotic, spirituals, and American Folk Music – as well as settings of baroque classics by Bach and Pachelbel. The concert will also include a selection drawn from the works of Scott Joplin.
“It’s a special form of music, it takes a special group of folks to make the time and effort to prepare the music and we do have fun doing so. Our scores are all alike; similar to a piano sheet music, but we each only have four notes (bells) to play in most cases,” he reflected. “A few of us take four bells in hand; ringing on two axis with each hand. There are a couple of us who master up to six bells with quick hand changes or ringing several bass bells with mallets.”
In addition to helping raise awareness and food and monetary donations for local food pantries, this year’s concert will feature a special memorial composition, Prayer for the Innocents, in tribute to the victims and families of the attack at Pulse Night Club as well as other actions of violence against schools, colleges, and our society.
“There are a few professional groups who perform regularly; the Raleigh Ringers are featured on public television every holiday season,” White added. “The Westminster Choir College (now Rider College) also had a bell choir composed of students which drew national fame.”
Attendees are asked to bring a food or monetary donation as their admission fee. The concert begins at 5 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church is located at 2 South Main Street in Southampton. For more information, visit www.1stpresbyterian.church.