Four handbell choirs to hold clinic, concert on Sunday

November 9, 2018 GMT

TORRINGTON, Wyo. — Four bell choirs — the WyoRingers, Gering United Methodist Church and two from Cheyenne — will converge at Eastern Wyoming College’s Fine Arts Center on Nov. 10 for a clinic and concert.

Joyce Willeke, director for the WyoRingers, will serve as this year’s clinician along with Ron and Joan Swim.

The clinic started in 2012, when the Handbell Musicians of America were looking for someone to hold an event in Wyoming.

“They didn’t have any events taking place in Wyoming in the fall,” said Diona Savoy-McDaniels, a member of the choir. “The organization sent out an email in the spring asking if there were any groups interested in holding one that year. “I thought this would be kind of fun, and she was in agreement, so we told them we were interested.”

When Willeke and Savoy-McDaniels went to a convention in Salt Lake City that June, they were in for a surprise.

“We were shocked to discover they listed us as having an event in November in Torrington,” she said. “That sort of forced our hand.”

The group threw together funding, hired a clinician, and has hosted the event every year since. Along with that, the bell choir changed its name to the WyoRingers.

The concert will have a combination of Christmas, patriotic, religious and classical music. The selection is usually made by the clinician, with input from Willeke.

“We banter back and forth,” she said, “because I know the level of music that we can do. Sometimes, if we get the high power people in here, they may pick pieces that are too difficult for us, or maybe they pick it too easy. I have to try and get something in-between.”

Willeke, who taught elementary and high school music, is prepared for directing.

“If you can survive fifth-grade band,” she said, laughing, “you can survive just about anything.”

What makes working with a bell choir distinct is that each person in the choir plays a distinct set of notes, meaning the challenge is to get the ensemble to sound like a line of melody.

“There’s a real technique to getting the beauty out of the bell instead of clanging it,” she said. “You just keep working at it.”

The concert, which is free for the public, will begin at 3 p.m. on Nov. 10 at the Fine Arts Auditorium on EWC’s campus.