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From Closet to Concert: Where are they now?
We were first introduced to the Richton Ringers in 2011. Their founding director, John Howard, wrote a wonderful article about the group for our Summer 2011 Vibrations catalog. I caught up with longtime member Sylvia Anderson and their current director Johanna Greber and asked what the group is up to now.
For those unfamiliar with the group, you can read John Howard's full article here. In short, he tells the story of two neighboring churches, each struggling to maintain a handbell choir. John Howard became the music director at the United Methodist Church of Richton while pursuing his doctorate at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2008. Soon after, a classmate of his became the music director of First Baptist Church of Richton. The two decided that each church and choir was best served by combining into one choir under John Howard's leadership. Sylvia described John Howard as a “leader, organizer and planner”. He led his ringers through rounds of concerts, performances, fund raising, and the production of their own CD.
When John Howard's article left off in 2011, they were about to embark on a grand Californian tour. The choir traveled to San Diego and played at five different churches. The best part of the trip for Sylvia was running into audience members elsewhere on their trip; she said they ran into people several times who came running up to say, “Aren't you the handbell group? We were at your concert yesterday and just loved it!”. The group also visited Disneyland and were lauded through the park as the “Rainbow Girls” because of their bright tie-died t-shirts.
After a successful tour, the ladies returned home and continued ringing closer to home. Johanna Greber took over as director of the group when John Howard became the music minister of another church. Much is the same these days for the Richton Ringers as it was when they first combined. The combined group still has eleven women to this day, and Sylvia described them as family, saying “We can't wait to see each other every week!” They practice together each week and perform about five concerts a season, mostly at area churches. Sylvia was sure to point out that they always make sure to play at each of their home churches in thanks for the support each congregation has given this wonderful group over the past seven years.