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Riverside Church to Welcome Six Handbell Choirs for 2014 English Handbell Festival, 4/6

Riverside Church to Welcome Six Handbell Choirs for 2014 English Handbell Festival, 4/6

Nearly 100 handbell ringers from New York and Virginia will descend upon the historic Riverside Church to toll more than 400 handbells of varying sizes for a magnificent concert, filling its soaring halls with harmony and melody, during its 36th Annual English Handbell Festival at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 6 in the Church's Nave, at 490 Riverside Drive (bet. 120th & 122nd St.), Morningside Heights.

"Attendees of the English Handbell Festival at Riverside this year are in for a real treat," said Riverside Church Music Director of Music and Organist, Christopher Johnson. "We are excited to once again host some of the region's most talented musicians, all coming together at Riverside to perform in unity for one of our largest concerts of the year. It's going to be bigger and better than ever."

This year's program has been expanded from previous years and will be the largest yet, featuring guest conductor David Harris (Raleigh, NC), who will direct nearly 100 handbell ringers as they perform a variety of compositions by composers from around the world. This large and unusual gathering of choirs will feature six handbell ensembles, an increase from the four that have participated in the past. They include: The Riverside Ringers (NYC), The Emanuel Ringers (Pleasantville, NY), Katonah Celebration Ringers (Katonah, NY), Mitchell Ringers (Annandale, VA), Hewitt School Handbell Choir (NYC) and Christ Church Handbell Choir (NYC).

Handbell ensembles play lustrous brass bells of various sizes, each producing a single tone within a three- to seven-octave range, depending on the size of the choir. Bells are organized from lowest to highest, with a single musician assigned to play four or more bells. The musicians ring the bells together or in succession to create chords or melodies, similar to a chorus of voices. Playing handbells is a challenging skill, requiring mental acuity, physical stamina, and musical precision. Handbell ensembles practice for weeks to perform just a few pieces.

Although handbell ensembles have been in existence in the United States for well over a century, it was not until the latter half of the twentieth century that bell groups began to become more common in churches and schools. The sound of handbell music alone is enchanting, but watching handbell ensembles perform is an impressive sight and a mesmerizing experience. Various techniques are employed to sound bells and the combination of technique and coordination is captivating.

Preceding the handbell concert, at 3:00 p.m. carillonneur Dionisio A. Lind will give a recital on the Church's world famous carillon, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon. At 3:30 p.m. Riverside Church Associate Organist, Christopher Creaghan, will perform an organ recital on Riverside's 206-rank Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ, the second largest instrument in New York City with over 12,000 pipes.

Tickets to the festival will be available at the door and are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. For additional information, call the Riverside music department at 212-870-6722 or email

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