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Bells in Motion

     Twenty years ago, the idea that handbells could effectively play music other than hymns in a church service was a relatively radical idea. Casual listeners assumed that handbells didn’t have the flexibility of sound to do more than simply ring. Since then, new techniques have been conceived of and put into use that greatly increase the ability for handbells groups to play many different styles of music. It’s no coincidence that many of the community groups in existence today are celebrating 20 or more years of playing “non-traditional” handbell music.

     One of the groups that defies the “norm” and has helped redefine handbell parameters is Bells in Motion, a progressive handbell ensemble that performs music ranging from jazz to classical, big band to blues, Broadway to rock, as well as sacred and original compositions written especially for them.

     Bells in Motion is a professional community handbell ensemble based in central Illinois. The ensemble was started in 1997 by Michael Lamb and today boasts from 15 to 18 ringers, who are selected by audition. Kim Congdon, known in the handbell world as KC, is the current director. While most of the ringers hail from central Illinois, others have come from the Chicago area, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, and even Texas.

     Bells in Motion rings a 7 octave blend of Malmark and Schulmerich handbells and handchimes, as well as incorporating keyboard, string bass, drums and other percussion instruments. One concert season even featured a hillbilly string band! They rehearse in Springfield one Saturday a month from 8:30-4:30 and present at least two Christmas concerts and two spring concerts per year.

     The ensemble has attended and been the featured group at the National Director’s Seminar, Pinnacle, and the Handbell Musicians of America Area 8 conferences. The ringers are also very involved locally, playing for The Copley First Citizens Breakfast, Springfield’s First Night Celebration, Memorial Hopsital’s Festival of Trees and the opening and dedication of the Lincoln Presidential Museum & Library during the Looking for Lincoln weekend. In addition, the group has had the opportunity to perform with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. Small groups from within the ensemble have played for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign and nursing homes. Bells in Motion also works with area churches and leads workshops for local handbell ensembles.

     The group has toured in the US as well as internationally to Austria & Germany, Italy & Switzerland, England & Scotland, and Canada. Closer to home, they have received the Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Performing Arts Group. The ensemble has released three CDs, “In Transit”, “Sleigh Bells” and “Bronze Images”. “Sleigh Bells” and “Bronze Images” are available for purchase at one of their concerts or from their website, iTunes and CD Baby - visit the Bells in Motion website for more information and to listen to excerpts from the CDs.

     Bells in Motion has worked with several noted handbell clinicians/directors/composers including David Davidson, Dave Harris, Hart Morris, Kevin McChesney and William Payne. Hart Morris and Kevin McChesney have written commissioned works for Bells in Motion, which are understandably included in the list of favorite pieces: “I Got Rhythm”, “Anthem Internationale”, “Winter Rhapsody”, “Jingle Bells”, “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, and their signature piece, “In the Mood”. Others on their favorites list are “Ascension”, “Wizards in Winter”, Meditation on Beautiful Savior”, “Prelude on HERZLIEBSTER JESU”, “All That Jazz” and many more too numerous to list!

     Bells In Motion will present ‘That Jazz’, their upcoming spring concert, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 6, 2017, 1st Federated Church, 3601 N Sheridan, Peoria, IL, and again at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 7, 2017, Peace Lutheran Church, 2800 W Jefferson, Springfield, IL. Admission is $15 at the door.

     To learn more about Bells in Motion, visit their website, follow them on Facebook or send an email to Happy 20th Anniversary and may you have many more years of joyful ringing!