handbells

Top 25 Favorite Anthems for Intergenerational Choirs

Top 25 Favorite Anthems for Intergenerational Choirs

There’s something special about an intergenerational choir: the coming together of people of all ages and walks of life to share music and lift their voices in song. It sends a message of unity and inclusivity and I think it gives us a little glimpse of what heaven might be like, singing in the angel choir.

Intergenerational choirs are a great way to celebrate something special in the life of the church - an anniversary or special service. The easiest way to create this experience is to combine groups you already have. There are a number of ways to do this.

How to Start a Handbell Choir (with Zero Experience)

How to Start a Handbell Choir (with Zero Experience)

So, you want to start a handbell choir. The only problem is, you don't know the first thing about ringing and your ringers are mostly newbies without a whole lot of previous musical experience.

What's a want-to-be handbell choir director to do?

The good news is you don't need to have a lot of experience or professional training to lead and direct a handbell choir (though, that never hurts). With a desire to learn, a solid sense of rhythm and steady beat, and a little practical know-how, you'll be on your way to building and leading a handbell choir in no time.

A Dozen Budget-Friendly Collections for the Small Handbell Choir

A Dozen Budget-Friendly Collections for the Small Handbell Choir

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of playing through a new handbell piece. The challenge (you want me to play how many bells?), the excitement (a new technique!), the intrigue (how will it end?).

The only problem is, handbell music can be quite costly, sometimes as high as $5 per copy.

And if you’re a part-time director of a small handbell choir at a small church with a small budget, to match, you may be able to afford only 1-2 new pieces a year.

A practical solution? Handbell collections.

Instead of buying music one piece at a time (and spending $4-$5 per copy), a collection gives you 3-10 pieces for a fraction of the cost. Recently, I’ve come across several collections that work really well for smaller (2-3 octave) handbell choirs like ours.

Here are 12 budget-friendly collections you might consider:

Handbell Notation Guide [Infographic]

Handbell Notation Guide [Infographic]

One of the most challenging things about directing a handbell choir is getting used to all the new markings in the music.

Why? Because in addition to general music notation markings (dynamics, slurs, articulation, accidentals, accents, etc.), handbell music includes special technique-specific markings - things like “thumb damp,” “echo,” and “martellato."

A number of these notation markings appear only in handbell music and if you’re relatively new to ringing, it can be hard to keep up.

What does that arrow mean again?
What do you do when you see a plus sign?
What does “TD” stand for?

A few months ago, I found myself googling “handbell notation chart” without much success. There are a few cheat sheets out there, but not as many as you might think. So, I decided to create my own.

25 Reproducible Collections for the Small Handbell Choir

25 Reproducible Collections for the Small Handbell Choir

It can be challenging to find good quality handbell repertoire for a small bell choir. It’s even more difficult to find music for a small, but intermediate-level group. Add to that the expense of buying new handbell music ($5 per copy, on average), which could cost you $50, or so, for one new piece in your library. If your bell choir plays several times per year, as most bell choirs do, this adds up quickly.

A solution? Reproducible collections.

When you purchase a single copy of a reproducible collection, it includes a license to reproduce as many copies of the collection as you need for your ensemble. Most of these collections run around $50, but they include 6-8 pieces for your bell choir to play. This is a significant amount of savings!

Reproducible collections are available from a variety of publishers and distributors. Some are even available as digital downloads (marked with an asterisk below), meaning you can purchase the collection, download it to your computer, and print it immediately without waiting for a book to arrive in the mail. This is a great time-saver if you’re shopping for new music just a few days before your next rehearsal!

How to Direct a Handbell Rehearsal

How to Direct a Handbell Rehearsal

Let’s say you just inherited your church’s handbell choir. You’ve subbed in handbell choirs a few times before and know the basic ringing technique (damping and that all-important snap in the wrist). Maybe you have some conducting experience, too. And the members of this particular handbell choir have been playing together for a long time.

I mean, the bell choir probably runs itself at this point. How hard can it be?

The truth is, it’s not that hard, but it is different from directing a vocal choir or even an instrumental group. Handbell music notation is different (and more complex), there’s often a greater emphasis on rhythm and counting, and the ins and outs of assigning bells and keeping track of parts from piece to piece adds another layer of preparation and planning to your plate as director.

Not to worry, though. Today, I’m sharing what I’ve learned about directing handbell choirs and my process for running a rehearsal. Enjoy!

10 Creative Ways to Use Handbells in Worship

10 Creative Ways to Use Handbells in Worship

One of my favorite parts of worship planning is finding creative ways to incorporate music into the services. From introits to benediction responses, prayer responses, transitions, and even underscoring.

Handbells are a great way to do this!

Over the past few years, SD and I have come up with several creative, meaningful ways to include handbells in worship, beyond the traditional prelude or anthem slot. We recently inherited a bell choir at church, so I’m revisiting some creative, out-of-the-box from our past experiences and coming up with a few new ideas for our group this spring.

I mean, who said you have to have tables and foam and covers and special folders and notebook stands to play? We're breaking with tradition and using handbells in a whole new way.

Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

Music for Communion: 40+ Songs, Hymns, and Anthems

Music for Communion: 40+ Songs, Hymns, and Anthems

Communion may be one of our most sacred traditions in the church. It's a tangible way to remember, to accept the gift of grace and forgiveness, to make Christ's sacrifice real again. Some churches celebrate communion once a quarter; others, once a month. And there are many congregations that share communion every Sunday.

You may not choose communion-themed music for every communion Sunday, but every so often, it can be nice to choose an anthem, congregational song or hymn, or instrumental piece that ties in with this sacred tradition.

Today, I'm sharing a variety of music that would work well for communion Sundays throughout the year (including World Communion Sunday, All Saints' Sunday, the Sundays leading up to Thanksgiving, and Holy Week).

5 Ideas for Creating Meaningful Advent Services

5 Ideas for Creating Meaningful Advent Services

Advent is a time of waiting. Preparation. Anticipation. Expectancy. Hope. We retell the story we all know by heart. We reread the prophecies and remember the journey - the years of waiting, the sense of unknown.

We light candles and sing ancient songs and dwell in the moments of darkness before the season of light, holding on to hope and promises yet to be fulfilled.

This is the essence of the Advent season, for me.

How can we convey this in worship? How can we make this season more meaningful? How can we capture the quietness, the sense of wonder, the shimmering light in the midst of darkness in our Advent services? 

Here are 5 ideas: 

25 Ways for Youth to Participate in Worship

25 Ways for Youth to Participate in Worship

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about ways for children to participate in worship. Not sit in the pews with a children's bulletin and a pack of crayons, but actively participate in meaningful ways. It's important to create a welcoming and inviting space for all who come to worship and plan experiences that include children and youth, as well as adults. This creates a worship environment that is inviting, inclusive, intergenerational, and inspiring. (For more about each of these points, read this post).

Youth participation in worship should not be limited to Youth Sunday.

From serving as worship leader to helping serve Communion, bringing Scripture readings to life or contributing to music ministry, many middle and high school students are capable of participating in and contributing to worship - often, they just need to be asked. 

Here are 25 ways for youth to actively participate in worship: