Cheadle Arts Festival Week

Joint Handbell concert with the Cheadle U3A Ukulele Group at Cheadle Guildhall, Sunday 19 March 2017 in aid of The Donna Louise Trust.

What a great afternoon of entertainment we gave to a packed Guildhall!

When the audience started arriving at 1.45 pm, for a 2.30 start, we were still putting out the chairs and had only just finished a none-too-great rehearsal!  You know what they say: you need a bad practice to concentrate the mind on an excellent performance. We certainly did that.  

The Ukulele Group opened the programme with a lively rendition of "Rock Around the Clock", dressed in their colourful Hawaiian Shirts and straw hats.  They had passed out song books which got the audience into the spirit of singing along to the many well-known songs that followed.

We were the filling of the sandwich in the first and second halves, providing a great contrast to ukuleles, a harmonica, a kazoo and a tambourine.

Our programme was varied and we processed into the hall playing “The Processional Celebration”, which was certainly different.  We finished our first session with "Over the Rainbow" with the supporters singing along enthusiastically - Judy Garland would have been proud!  Tea and scrummy cakes followed.  Many comments: "I didn't know handbells were so versatile", "what a lovely melodic sound", "can't wait for the second half - it is so good".

Second helping and the Ukuleles were back with a loud, foot-tapping session and much rousing applause. What an act to follow!

We started with "Celebration" - a piece of music written especially for handbells, very bright with an amazingly upbeat finish.  Our "I've Got The Joy" tune, played by beating the bells instead of ringing them, seems always a hit with the audience even though we give our conductor, Wendy, much consternation as she has a job keeping up with us as we always want to go faster than her!!

We finished with a brand new arrangement of "You Are My Sunshine" accompanied by team members Sarah and Jean on percussion (drum, whistles, rattles, and that kazoo again) who, on this first performance, brought the house down, leaving us poor bell ringers in the doldrums!  “When You’re Smiling” found us accompanying the Ukulele Group - minus the percussion - as the finale to a wonderful afternoon's entertainment, clearly enjoyed by one and all.

It was also a fine debut for Callum, the newest and youngest member of the team, who rang extremely well in his first concert.

To quote Lynne: "1, 2, 3, I love handbells", whilst taking a bow!

Judith Denning 19.3.17

An Exciting New Venture

Practice nights are electric with anticipation this year, because we're preparing for our first cd. It's a major project that we're sharing with The Inn Ringers, another Staffordshire handbell team. Choosing the 8 pieces to be recorded, (finding the right balance of variety, pace and dynamics, perfecting techniques to show the full range of music we can make with our three and a half octaves ) is a new challenge for us and our director, Wendy.

Shall we use Chimes? Mallets? Thumb damp? Brush damp? Martellato? Echo? Singing bells? Vibrato? Gyro? Tower swing? Pluck? Shake? Ring touch? Each makes a different beautiful sound. Our bells become an orchestra, with depth, surprises, delicate harmonies, rousing rhythms, swiftly changing moods and sounds that make the heart sing.

Audiences watching us sometimes think we're too serious - not smiley enough. Yes, we are, but it's because we're fiercely concentrating. This is like no other music-making, because, in effect we, the team, meld 44 bells into one instrument.

Shall we be able to do justice to this unique instrument, so that people listening will feel the same delight that we feel as we play?

Sue Fraser 1.2.17

Handbells at Cheadle (Staffs) Christmas Fair


It was a cold afternoon but we had wrapped up warmly for the event.  The market square in Cheadle was quite bare of stalls and devoid of people but nevertheless there was a podium set up for entertainers.  We stood around waiting for our turn. We were greeted by the Mayor and made very welcome by him and the compere for the event.  Stalls and fairground rides lined the main street, which was thronged with people enjoying the event and waiting for the Christmas lights to be switched on.

When it was our turn to take to the stage we passed up music stands, handbells and music folders but when it came to getting ourselves up onto the podium we had great difficulty as there was no step to help us and it was quite high! However we hoisted ourselves up and prepared to ring.

Clad with black gloves we started to play and managed to ring all our carols and Christmas songs. A few more people had drifted towards us and clapped us enthusiastically. A very tall man wearing a top hat, on stilts, stood close to us to listen.  My daughter had arrived too with my two grandchildren, which was cheering to me and they seemed to be enjoying the music especially when we played Jingle Bells!

We were thanked profusely when we had finished and we quickly packed up to go and drink some mulled wine to warm us up.

Jean Reilly.





The Bells Rang Out for Christmas


The handbells rang out in Denstone Farm Shop, turning heads, brightening faces. Adults and children laughed and clapped.  Joy was all around.

The farm shop was full, “jammed packed” I would say!

 Many sang along to the tinkling sounds of Jingle Bells with eyes lit up and Christmas spirit in every one of them, helped a little bit I think with the imbibing of mulled wine!

Silent Night rings out clear and bright, pure notes with holy tone and atmosphere into the night.

The ringing ends with We Wish You a Merry Christmas and The Stubwood Singers take the stage with their dulcet tones.

Jean Reilly

123….I love handbells…

Yes…”123…I love handbells” is the accepted way to take a bow. This is what we did after a successful and very enjoyable evening at Wolstanton United Reform Church  where we performed with the excellent  Not Strictly Barbershop singers on Saturday November 19th.

We arrived at the church on a very cold November evening (note to team..wear vests to all performances) and performed a number of our favourite arrangements.  Some of the more haunting melodies (‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow,’,‘The Rose’,  ‘Sakura’,  ‘ Brother James’  Air ‘) filled the church, which has such good acoustics.  I think the beautiful sounds even surprised us!  Members of the audience were quite moved…

“A lovely calm and relaxing sound…”

“Something really beautiful and different…”        were some of the kind comments.  Everyone agreed that we’d done a good job (“best handbells I’ve heard!” was an accolade from  one gentleman.)

We were joined in the concert by the choir,  who sang a variety of entertaining and varied songs  in amazing harmony without accompaniment.   Helped, of course by “the techno wizard with his little gadget.”  Members of the audience and all of the performers will know how vital this was to their performance.

The second half picked up pace with the singers performing ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight,’ the James Bond’ theme and ‘Hey Big Spender’ (complete with bright red feather boas which enthusiastically shed their feathers around the church as they sang!)  We played music which demonstrated the range of musical effects and tones it is possible to achieve using handbells, including the use of the mallets in’ I’ve got the Joy’.   It was great!

We rounded off our performance to match the upbeat mood with a Proms night theme which included the ’ Toreador’s Song’ and finally ’ Land of Hope and Glory’ to which choir and audience sang   and waved  flags enthusiastically.  It was a  wonderful and rousing  ending to a special evening, which was  thoroughly enjoyed by everyone (including us!)  All the practice had  been worthwhile (although the vicar said that we need to smile more.  Oh dear .. must try harder with this then, although as a relative beginner to the team I know how hard you have to concentrate, and a smile as well???)

Many thanks to Wendy for guiding us with such patience, and to Sarah who both conducted the choir and played in the handbells team.

What a privilege it is to be able to make such lovely music with so many other people.  So when we take our bow, we really DO mean…

123… we love handbells!

 By Lynne Croxall 


RSS feed Subscribe to News feed