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Bells Will Toll, But Not For Them

12/14/2007
There were no lighters held aloft or hands waving in the air last Thursday night at the Springmoor retirement community, but that doesn't mean the place wasn't rockin'.
Reprinted by permission of The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina
 
The News & Observer North Raleigh News, December 14, 2007
 David Bracken, Staff Writer
 
There were no lighters held aloft or hands waving in the air last Thursday night at the Springmoor retirement community, but that doesn’t mean the place wasn’t rockin’.
 
On the bill was Springmoor’s long-time house band, The Raleigh Ringers, who were playing the first show since they moved into a new practice space in another part of the city. 
 
As a room full of senior citizens grinned and toe-tapped, one of the country’s premier handbell ensembles ran through a mix of old and new material that included Tchaikovsky, Vince Guaraldi and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
 
“It’s going to take me an hour or two to come undone from this,” admitted Helen Bosse, 83, after the 90-minute show.
 
“We think they’re wonderful,” said Myra Thomas, 80.  “They’re so nice to come here.”
 
Dave Harris, The Raleigh Ringers’ music director, said the 17-member group has been looking to lease or buy practice space of its own since the beginning of the year.  Setting up and taking down the group’s handbells at Springmoor is time consuming, Harris said, and leaves less time to practice.
 
“Now we get to spend all our energy working on the music,” he said.
 
The Ringer’s Springmoor fan base seems to understand that the move is a sign of the group’s growing popularity.
 
“I’m not sorry they left, I think it’s wonderful,” Bosse said.
 
Last month, the handbell ensemble received a Medal of Arts award from the Raleigh Arts Commission.  Despite playing a niche instrument, the Ringers have been able to expand their notoriety thanks to a set list that mixes classical orchestral pieces, jazz and rock.
 
The Ringer’s willingness to experiment was on display during last Thursday’s show, as the group welcomed a special guest: Dean Shostak, a glass armonica player from Williamsburg, Virginia.
 
Shostak and Harris have known each other for years, but last Thursday was the first time the two were able to perform together.
 
In between songs, Shostak the crowd how the glass armonica, which consists of glass bowls tuned by size, mounted one inside the other, had gone from being a popular instrument in the late 18th and 19th centuries to a lost art today.
 
“Mozart was a glass armonica player,” noted Shostak, who claims to be one of 10 people in the world who currently play the instrument.
 
With most of the Springmoor crowd having heard the Ringers many times before, residents felt free to offer constructive criticism about the Ringers-Shostak collaboration.
 
“I think they have some refinements to make, but it’s quite good,” said Joe Padgett, 81.
 
After promising to return again for future concerts, the Ringers finished off their set the way they always do, with a rendition of “Silent Night.”
 
“Thanks to all the folks at Springmoor who made us feel so welcome,” Harris said.