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Detroit Handbell Ensemble


  Say the word “Detroit” and almost instantly, the mind conjures up assembly lines and new cars. But don't forget that “Motown” isn't just a shortened form of Motor Town; it also refers to the rich musical heritage that's as much a part of the city as the automotive industry is. And from that rich heritage, many different genres of music have taken root and grown. Just ask any member of the Detroit Handbell Ensemble; they'll tell you it's not the ringing of tools on the assembly line that one hears, it's the ringing of handbells.

  The year 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the Detroit Handbell Ensemble. Formed in 1991 under the direction of Susan Berry, this auditioned concert choir is currently 13 members strong. Michael Burkhardt is the Artistic Director.

  DHE performs on 5 octaves of Malmark handbells (plus D8) and 5 octaves of Malmark Choirchimes. They rehearse weekly, September through May, on Tuesday evenings at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Livonia, Michigan.

  Just one year after their formation, DHE performed a solo piece at the 1992 National Festival in South Bend, IN. Since then DHE has been a featured ensemble at the National Director's Seminarin Dayton, OH and at the 2003 Area 5 Festival in Battle Creek, MI. In addition, ensemble members have taken part in Area 5 Festivals as participants in the massed ringing.

  Education has always been an important part of the mission of DHE and is incorporated into each of their concerts through “Dialogue with DHE”; a time set aside when audience members are encouraged to ask questions about things they've seen, heard or wondered about in relationship to handbells. Many of the questions are prompted by the concert selections and techniques used in those pieces. In 2010, DHE began hosting an annual Bell Fest. This provides area handbell choirs and ensembles an opportunity to work and perform with DHE, creating a wonderful educational and musical experience for all who attend.

  In addition, the Ensemble regularly conducts workshops, holds open rehearsals, and performs at local elementary schools. They are a sponsor of the hearts, hands and voices Worship and Fine Arts Program, which is an outreach program of Holy Cross Lutheran Church for children in grades 2-7. DHE funds two student scholarships for children who wish to attend the annual hearts, hands and voices Worship and Fine Arts Summer Camp and several of the ensemble ringers teach and assist in the camp program.

  Previous performances include Noel Night in downtown Detroit; concerts in Pease Auditorium at Eastern Michigan University; hymn festivals at Pease Auditorium, Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan and local churches; combined concerts with Embellish; special guest appearances with the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra (Christmas 2014) and with the Orchard Lake Philharmonic (Christmas 2015); performances for conferences and conventions of the Methodist and Lutheran church bodies and Handbell Musicians of America Area 5 festivals; and a 20th Anniversary celebration at which they premiered a DHE commissioned work written by Cathy Moklebust.

  Favorite and notable pieces include that commissioned work, entitledCampanae Celebrare”, by Cathy Moklebust, “Metamorphasis” by Michael Helman, “Shelter in the Storm” by Christopher Fortin, “Sympatico” by Jason Krug, “Valse Brilliante” by Karen Lakey Buckwalter and “Veni, Veni Emmanuel” by Fred Gramann. Four of these six can be heard on their newly-released first CD, “Campanae Celebrare” (easy to see this is a definite favorite!), which is available through the DHE website.

  To learn more about the Detroit Handbell Ensemble go to their website or Facebook page. If you have any questions for the ensemble or would like to host a concert by DHE, send an email to Nancy Kindraka or Shelly Walldorff at For audition information, contact Ellen Woodard at

  Happy 25th Anniversary! Here's to the next 25 years!