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May Day concert features handbell ensemble

The Bells of the Bluffs Handbell Ensemble rings in May Day with a matinee concert featuring a wide range of music eras and genres.

Music starts 2 p.m. Sunday May 1 at First Lutheran Church, 615 W. Fifth St., Red Wing.

Bell ringers will play five octaves of handbells, chimes combined with the group’s unique bass note percussion system.

Area musicians will be added for selected songs and Joyful Noise, the First Lutheran Church handbell group, also will play.

Marilee Anderson is musical director for both the Bells of the Bluffs and Joyful Noise and has been ringing for 34 years.

She said she first heard handbells at her church in Hastings when they obtained a three-octave bell set.

“I fell in love with them and started learning by going to workshops, classes and festivals,” she said of her bell ringing.

Since then, Anderson has directed and played, even joining a semi-professional community ensemble, the Bells of the Lakes, out of the Twin Cities where she rang for 13 years.

She has directed handbells at First Lutheran for seven years in addition to being the church’s director of music.

Ringing as one

Handbells are 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin, Anderson said. Different sizes create different notes — smaller bells higher pitch and larger bells lower pitch.

“A handbell ensemble is not several instruments playing together but several bells playing together to make one instrument,” she explained. “Each person is responsible for certain bells and notes of the music. If a person is missing from the ensemble, their notes do not get played which leaves a big hole in the music.”

The 13-member Bells of the Bluff ensemble is a faith-based group with a community feel and members both locally and regionally.

As a community outreach organization, the group works to promote appreciation and understanding of handbells and handbell ensemble music.

Concert-goers are invited to participate in a fundraising silent auction featuring more than a dozen specially created themed baskets. Bidding will open before the concert and continue during intermission.

The group is affiliated with, but not funded by, First Lutheran Church of Red Wing.

To learn more about Bells of the Bluffs events, sign up for the group’s newsletter or suggest a concert location, visit or find them on Facebook and YouTube.

If you go...

Who: Bells of the Bluffs

When: 2 p.m. Sunday May 1

Where: First Lutheran Church, 615 W. Fifth St.

Cost: Free

More info:

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

(651) 301-7880