Handbell admirers gather to hearKalamazoo Ringers

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PHOTO BY GARTH SNOW

Janet Van Valey directs the Kalamazoo Ringers in concert at Plymouth Congregational Church of Christ in Fort Wayne.

One of America’s best-known community handbell choirs performed for an audience of 120 people at Plymouth Congregational Church of Christ in Fort Wayne.

Plymouth handbell choir director Tim Cunningham introduced the guest artists to an audience that included Plymouth music director Robert Nance and that represented many congregations and church music leaders from the Summit City and beyond.

Janet Van Valey directed the 15 members of the Kalamazoo Ringers in a program of 13 patriotic, sacred, blues and hometown band style numbers. Van Valey spoke of the “great despair and wonderful joy” that can be found in the music.

The Kalamazoo Ringers began with a kitchen table talk in 1981. The choir is now the nation’s oldest continually operating handbell choir. The borrowed bells have been replaced with multiple sets of bells. The choir now carries about 150 bells and Choirchimes on its tour. The choir has rehearsed in space provided by Grace Harbor Church of God since 2003. “They have never charged us a nickel of rent,” Van Valey said. The choir performs at two services each year at that host church.

After the concert, members of the audience were invited to inspect the bells and to ask questions of the ringers.

The concert was the first of the summer tour, which also visited Flatwoods, Ky., and Cincinnati, Worthington and Stow, Ohio.

For more information on the Kalamazoo Ringers, or to purchase their CD’s, visit kalamazooringers.org.