Who are the Cranbrook Ringers?

By: Hunter Torres

Have you ever heard the Cranbrook Ringers handbell choir play at a CCC service? This short article is intended to shed some light on the unique experience of ringing bells at CCC, and to enthusiastically invite you to join us!

First, some useful history:

● Did you know CCC is the caretaker of a very special handbell collection? Our first five octaves of cast bronze bells were acquired in 1982 from Malmark Bellfoundry in Bucks County, PA; in 2007 we completed the set with the addition of two more octaves, making our collection one of the largest in the nation. The bells range in size from just a few ounces to over 15 pounds, so if you have interest in playing bells, we have a bell for you!
● The handbell choir itself is also a special asset, having existed in one form or another for over 40 years, through ebbs and flows in membership, notable directorships, and celebrated ringers joined by brand new learners. We are a proud, quirky, and enduring group!
● Today, Cranbrook Ringers is growing with joy under the kind and skillful guidance of director Judy Phillips, with the commitment of a small group of ringers both old and new. Judy is an accomplished handbell director and composer who has won recognition for her leadership and service. We’re so grateful to have her!

Why should you join Cranbrook Ringers? Here are some of the reasons our members love the experience:

  1. SERVICE: Playing bells allows us to express our thankfulness to the Lord and the Church through active participation in worship. Next time we play, see if you can hear the mysterious way the bell tones find resonance amidst the Sanctuary stone. We hope our music will lift hearts
  2. FELLOWSHIP: The bell choir is a family! We delight in our time together – coming to know each other’s interesting life experiences, sharing a space in our week to relax and learn and laugh together. We are co-creators in community, so we show up for each other. We trust and depend on each other. And we celebrate each other with much love.
  3. CHRISTIAN PRACTICE: Playing bells is oh so human. There is no perfection involved. Just when we think we’ve nailed it, a wrong bell is waiting to be rung! Being in a bell choir invites humility and humor. We practice being patient with each other and ourselves. We put aside our egos, as our “instrument” is played collectively. We try to “loosen our grip” on the bells, so to speak. We laugh at our mistakes. And we thrill when we find unity, even if only for a measure, to make a joyful sound.
  4. HEALTH & WELLNESS: Did you know playing handbells is good for the brain? Cognitive functions like memory and attention are kicked into gear, plus the physical act of left-right crossing keeps us neurologically young! What’s more, playing bells is the perfect antidote to the modern age: it asks us to resist distraction, to use our hands, heads, and hearts, and to work together instead of alone. What could be better than that?
  5. LEARNING: Our group includes seasoned ringers and rank beginners, but we’re all learners all the time. Every new piece brings opportunities for discovery: a challenging passage, a fancy technique, a chance to listen for the melody amidst so many other sounds. We learn together under Judy’s gentle direction, and we champion each other as we grow.
  6. JOY! : Did you know playing handbells is fun? There’s something to be said for ringing with gusto and making a joyous sound! Ringing simultaneously is the result of our commitment to each other and our camaraderie. It’s satisfying, and it brings us much laughter and joy, even when we’re perfectly imperfect.

So, have we convinced you yet? Are you wondering what it takes to join the Cranbrook Ringers? Here’s what you need to know:

● No experience? No problem! If you can COUNT, you’re good! It’s great if you know how (or once upon a time knew how) to read music, but that is not required. A desire to learn is really all you need!
● Already an accomplished musician? That’s great too! Come share your musicality with our small and welcoming group. We have opportunities for more advanced ringers to play more advanced pieces.
We rehearse on Wednesday evenings from 7-8:30 at the church. We play in services every month or two, when there’s space in the ecclesiastic program and when our members are available. We take the summer months off. If travel or other life demands mean you need to miss a practice or even a season, it’s okay. We’re a flexible and forgiving bunch!

Thank you for reading this invitation. We hope you will join us!
Please contact Judy Phillips if you’d like to learn more or attend a rehearsal.

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