50 Pieces for the Small Handbell Choir

50 Pieces for the Small Handbell Choir | @ashleydanyew

Ever since we started directing handbell choirs, we've struggled to find music that is accessible and appropriate for worship for small groups of ringers. Sure, there are plenty of beginning pieces (Levels 1 and 2), but much of the literature calls for 15 or more bells (2+ octaves), which is hard to manage with a group that has as few as six players (especially if they're beginners).

First, a quick word about collections: Over the past few years, we've come across a few collections that work great and pieces that are not only playable but also meaningful for all involved. Patricia Sanders Cota has written several arrangements for twelve bells (4-6 players), organized into various collections: 

Twelve Bells for Worship (Vol. I and II)
Twelve Bells of Christmas (Vol. III, and III)
Twelve Bells for Praise and Worship (Vol. I and II)

The pieces in these books are designed with no bell changes - each ringer plays only two bells, so no tables necessary! Have someone in your group who can manage three bells? Check out Cota's Twelve Bells +1 collections!

Twelve Bells +1 for Spirituals
Twelve Bells +1 for Christmas
Twelve Bells +1 for Praise and Worship
Twelve Bells +1 for Lent and Easter

Okay. Without further ado, here are our top 50 pieces for the small handbell choir:

Music for 12 bells:

1. Away in a Manger (Twelve Bells of Christmas, Vol. I)
2. For the Beauty of the Earth (Twelve Bells for Worship, Vol. I)
3. Amazing Grace (Twelve Bells for Worship, Vol. I)
4. Simple Gifts (Twelve Bells for Worship, Vol. I)
5. Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Twelve Bells for Worship, Vol I.)
6. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (Twelve Bells for Worship, Vol. I)
7. What a Friend We Have in Jesus (Twelve Bells for Worship, Vol. I)
8. O Come, All Ye Faithful (Twelve Bells of Christmas, Vol. I)
9. Angels We Have Heard on High (Twelve Bells of Christmas, Vol. I)
10. Joy to the World (Twelve Bells of Christmas, Vol. I)
11. Go Tell It On the Mountain (Twelve Bells of Christmas, Vol. I)
12. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (Twelve Bells of Christmas, Vol. I)
13. Still, Still, Still (arr. Danyew - available here) - 12 bells (with 4 handchimes)

Looking for more ideas? Try these collections:

Five Hymns for Twelve Bells (Bill Ingram)
Hymns for Twelve Bells: Four Hymns in F Major (Bill Ingram)

Music for 13-18 bells:

14. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Handbells Are a Handful of Fun - Christmas, Vol. I) - 14+ bells
15. O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (arr. McIntyre - available for free here) - 14 bells
16. Infant Holy, Infant Lowly (arr. Moklebust) - 15+bells
17. Come, Thou Almighty King (Begin to Ring, Vol. II) - 15 bells
18. O Come, All Ye Faithful (Handbells Are a Handful of Fun - Christmas, Vol. I) - 15+ bells
19. Joy to the World (Handbells Are a Handful of Fun - Christmas, Vol. I) - 15+ bells
20. Come, Christians, Join to Sing (Begin to Ring, Vol. II) - 15 bells
21. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella (Begin to Ring, Vol. II) - 15 bells
22. On Christmas Night, All Christians Sing [Sussex Carol] (Begin to Ring, Vol. II) - 15 bells
23. We Three Kings of Orient Are (Handbells Are a Handful of Fun - Christmas, Vol. I) - 15+ bells
24. Away in a Manger (Handbells Are a Handful of Fun - Christmas, Vol. I) - 15+ bells
25. Christ the Lord Is Risen Today (in E-flat) (arr. McIntyre - available for free here) - 16 bells
26. Joseph, Dearest, Joseph Mine (Begin to Ring, Vol. II) - 17 bells
27. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Begin to Ring, Vol. II) - 17 bells
28. We Gather Together (Begin to Ring, Vol. II) - 17 bells
29. Away in a Manger (Let's All Ring at Christmas) - 18 bells
30. All Glory, Laud and Honor (arr. McIntyre - available for free here) - 18 bells
31. Adeste Fidelis (Seventeen Handbell Processions) - 18 bells
32. What Child Is This? (Allured: Bells in Worship) - 18 bells
33. Fairest Lord Jesus (Allured: Bells in Worship) - 18 bells


Free Handbell Acclamation

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Music for 19-25 bells:

34. Impressions on an Advent Carol (Watchman, Tell Us of the Night) (arr. Parry) - 19 bells
35. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (arr. Edwards) - 20 bells
36. We Three Kings (Let's All Ring at Christmas) - 20 bells
37. To God Be the Glory (arr. Dobrinski) - 21 bells
38. God So Loved the World (arr. McIntyre - available for free here) - 21 bells
39. My Shepherd Will Supply My Need (arr. Haan) - 21 bells
40. Stille, Stille, Stille (arr. Thompson) - 21+ bells
41. Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed (arr. Angerman) - 22 bells
42. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Let's All Ring at Christmas) - 22 bells
43. Were You There (arr. McIntyre - available for free here) - 23 bells
44. O Little Town of Bethlehem (Begin to Ring, Vol. II) - 23 bells
45. Be Thou My Vision (arr. Hopson) - 24 bells
46. Jesus Is Mine (arr. Eithun) - 24+ bells (with 14+ handchimes)
47. Freely, Freely (arr. Geschke) - 25+ bells
48. Make Me An Instrument of Thy Peace (arr. McChesney) - 25+ bells
49. The Lord's My Shepherd (Geschke)- 25 bells
50. Grace Greater Than Our Sins (arr. Hartley) - 25+ bells

There you have it! Hope this is helpful to you in planning music for your bell choirs. What are your favorite handbell pieces? I'd love to hear!

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