Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell
FROM THE LEFT, Lucille Horton (director), Crystal Gonzalez, Lynn McDonald (assistant director), Mary Setren, Diane Foster, Barbara Konvalin and Josh Setren make each rehearsal ring with music.
Bells of Joy
Continue to Ring
By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO September 6, 2005 The Bells of Joy want to ring your chimes.
Ten years ago, the first octave of 13 brass handbells was donated to the Monticello Presbyterian Church by the Day family in remembrance of their beloved Charlie.
After a couple of representatives of the Malmark Bell Company stopped in to give Charles Woodman, the minister at the time, a hands-on demonstration of the handbells, he asked church organist/choir director Lucille Horton what they should do, as nobody in the congregation knew anything about ringing.
So the former head of the Monticello High School's mathematics department figured she would step up to the plate.
As one thing led to another, Horton and Lynn McDonald started taking ringing seminars at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ.
"After a few rehearsals, I complained to Pastor Woodman one Sunday morning about the difficulty of trying to make music with one octave of bells," recalled Horton.
The local pastor understood the problem, as he was a member of the small handbell choir. In the wake of making a few phone calls, by that evening he had $2,000 in pledges to purchase a second octave of bells.
"Since that time, we have been ringing with different members, usually the young people of the church," said Horton. "If they would commit to rehearsal time, I would take them even if they could not read music, by color-coding the notes and making sure they knew their left hand from their right."
Last December, Monticello Presbyterian Church's organist/choir/ handbell director retired after two decades of service to the local house of worship.
By the time spring '05 rolled around on the calendar, Horton was concerned that no replacement director had come forward, and the languishing bells needed refurbishment as recommended by the maker.
So she corralled a group of friends to stage a benefit concert to raise the estimated $800 it would take to spruce up the church's $4,000 worth of handbells.
On Sunday afternoon, August 21, the Bells of Joy presented "A Potpourri of Music" in the Monticello Presbyterian Church's sanctuary featuring flutist Susan Melia of Hatboro, Pa., saxaphonist Randall House from Cuddebackville and the Chancel Choir.
The Bells of Joy Handbell Choir now includes Lucille Horton (director), Lynn McDonald (assistant director), Diane Foster, Crystal Gonzalez, Nancy Hobbs, Jessica Jones, Barbara Konvalin, Josh Setren and Mary Setren.
The Monticello Presbyterian Church's Chancel Choir features Harriet Gearhart, Crystal Gonzalez, Lynn McDonald, Mary Setren, Wilhelmina Setren, Phyllis Yoho, Rev. Robert McLeod, Josh Setren and Lou Setren.
At the age of 14, Horton learned to play the organ at a Lutheran Church while growing up in Schenectady, later playing at Monticello's Methodist Church, "and before that, I was organist just about any place."
At 77, she is accompanist for a classical quartet called Celebration in Song and is active in retired NYS teachers' organizations when not working crossword puzzles.
The youngest member of the Bells of Joy is Mary Setren, 14.
Horton explained that handbells came to the United States courtesy of the Barnum and Bailey Circus while they were in England looking for acts.
It seems like the circus folks dressed up ringers in fancy Swiss costumes and entertained crowds across the pond during the late 19th century, "even if there was no such thing as Swiss handbell ringers."
"Around the turn of the century, it became popular in churches," said Horton. "In England, every little church had their own set of tower bells, but it was cold in the winter, so they developed small handbells so the men could sit around in the taverns, drinking beer and practicing their ringing."
For Horton, a handbell is a lot like an ice cream cone.
"I tell folks that they have to keep the bell up, so the ice cream doesn't fall out of the cone," she said. "That way, the bell moves the most air, the tone lasts the longest and goes out to the audience."
The next performance of the Bells of Joy is scheduled for Sunday, September 11 at 6 p.m. at the Church of the Nazarene in Rock Hill.
In memory of 9-11-2001, other area church choirs will perform religious and patriotic works.
For information about the upcoming concert, call Ellen Horvath at 794-8757; for information about the Bells of Joy, contact Lucille Horton at 794-7869.