20th Anniversary Celebration
2016 Read and Ring
New Concert Attire
VHC was one of 5 ensembles that attended Synergy 2016, an all day event for advanced handbell choirs, in Westminster, MD, sponsored by the Westminster Ringers. Dr. William Payn, a true musical genius and handbell icon, was the conductor again this year. The day was filled with several rehearsals followed by a concert that was open to the public. We had a great time before, during, and after the event.
Virginia Handbell Consort was honored to play the Virginia Arts Festival Carillon for its first appearance in April at McArthur Center, Norfolk, VA.
To mark its 20th anniversary, Virginia Arts Festival recently unveiled a 23-bell mobile carillon. It’s roughly the size of a semi truck with a car carrier, serving as both mammoth musical instrument and sculptural art. The bells are mounted on a frame that spells out “VAF” that will be driven to venues to ring home the point that each event is associated with the arts festival. The instrument is engineered so that a person can play it at a keyboard or ring the individual bells by pulling levers. VAF went with a venerable manufacturer for the structure. It was made by the Verdin Co., a Cincinnati-based company that has been making bells, carillons and large clocks for 173 years. Verdin’s work can be seen at Walt Disney World, the University of Notre Dame and other spots around the country.
While the framework is custom-made, the bells are old and carry an interesting history. They were refurbished from a carillon built in 1928, commissioned by graduates of the now-defunct, all-female Ward-Belmont College in Nashville, Tenn., to honor troops killed in Flanders, Belgium, during World War I. The 23 bells, cast in England, were mounted in a converted water tower. The carillon was dedicated during homecoming week at Ward-Belmont in 1929. Five years later, the bells pealed “Hail to the Chief” when President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt visited. But in 1951, as financial woes mounted, the carillon was dismantled and the school closed. The bells stayed silent for more than six decades. Belmont University, the successor institution, built a new carillon for its campus, and the Verdin Co. acquired the old bells, which were refurbished for the VAF structure.