Both St. Mark’s Anglican Parish and Knox United Church hand bell choirs are busy practicing for their first concert, taking place at Knox church on Saturday, June 3. — Submitted by Jenny Vincent

Parksville concert to offer a new ring

Knox, St. Mark’s choirs to sound off in first hand bell choir concert

The bell has tolled – it’s time for a concert.

For the first time, the St. Mark’s Anglican Parish and Knox United Church handbell choirs are holding a joint performance on Saturday, June 3.

The concert, which will accept free-will offerings in support of the Qualicum Beach refugee family, will take place at Knox United Church starting at 1 p.m.

Jenny Vincent, the director for the Knox handbell choir, describes handbell music as soothing, peaceful and unexpectedly musical.

She began conducting the choir this year. The group itself is about four or five years old, while the St. Mark’s choir is approximately 10 years old, she said.

Handbell choirs are quite different from a singing choir, explained Vincent. The choirs are generally made up of 10 to 20 people, and each person plays a set of one to three or more bells. “And then we each have a note from the octave… so one person might have the low c-d, the next person might have the e-f, and on up.”

One of the key differences in performing as a handbell choir is the need for perfect timing and co-operation, said Vincent.

“I know for me I found it very hard at first because you have to count all the time while you’re playing,” she said. “It’s not just playing and listening to the melody and then hit your note when it’s appropriate. If that person misses, you have to be right on the beat. So we really have to work together.”

Despite the need for discipline, Vincent said, “It’s a lot of fun, I’ve got to say. I’m really enjoying it.

“And I’m surprised at how musical you can be. Before I knew anything about handbells, I thought, ‘That can’t be very musical,’ because you are just playing two bells and that’s it. But it really is because you work together as a big musical picture.”

The upcoming joint performance came about after holding a workshop together last fall, and then getting together again a couple months ago to feel out if they were ready for a concert.

The performance will feature an eclectic mix of music, including hymns like Amazing Grace, but also Scottish folk like My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, said Vincent.

Entry to the performance is via a goodwill offering, which will be used to support the Qualicum Beach refugee family. Though the first year government funding for the family is soon to end, Vincent said that both churches hope to continue to support the family as they transition to becoming self-sufficient.

The performance, called A Joyful Ring, takes place Saturday, June 3 at Knox United Church, starting at 1 p.m.