By Sue Poremba
For the past three years, I’ve had the pleasure of being part of a unique community event: the Nittany Valley Handbell Festival
. It brings together, on average, 15 handbell choirs from State College, Centre County
and throughout Pennsylvania. The choirs play as one on 7 or 8 bell music compositions, and several of the choirs are chosen as feature performers. Each year, a guest conductor is invited to lead the group. This year’s conductor is Kathleen Wissinger
, who has arranged 50 handbell pieces and teaches handbell clinics, as well as directs.
If you’ve never heard a handbell choir perform before, you are in for quite a treat. My bell choir has a dozen members, which is about average. Each person in the choir is responsible for two notes, which requires precision to always be on beat with the other 11 people. In addition to ringing bells, we use mallets and other techniques to create different musical sounds — we also play chimes. And if you think we’re doing a lot of work with two bells (or four if we have key changes in the music), you should check out the soloists who play an entire bell piece alone. It’s a feat that takes incredible dexterity and memory to know where each bell is.
The event is held in the State College High School North Building Gym
on Westerly Parkway. This year’s festival is April 10 at 7 p.m.