Handbell ringers from six states took a vibration vacation Aug. 12 and 13 at First United Methodist Church in Hollidaysburg.
The church reverberated with the sound of bells as members of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers Area II attended two days of classes to improve their skills.
Susan Brandt, director of music ministries at First United Methodist, said the church was chosen because its facilities met the guild's needs. The workshop included 71 bell ringers representing church, community and university groups.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Leah Martin of Trafford concentrates as she takes part in a handbell class at First United Methodist Church that was sponsored by the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers Area II.
Joyce Donnelly, a member of the Wesley Ringers at First United Methodist for four years, said the classes were "very enlightening."
She said playing handbells involves skill.
"You have to watch the key signature and pick up the right notes. You have to be quick," she said.
Donnelly of Altoona said she learned new techniques at the clinic, including how to hold two bells in each hand.
She said the Wesley Ringers play about every three months with special selections for Christmas and Easter.
Donnelly has played musical instruments since high school and enjoys making music. Playing in the handbell choir is a "way to give her talents to God," she said.
She said many of the workshop attendees were from churches and it was "very rewarding to be with a group of people who are as enthusiastic about handbells as I am."
In addition to six ringers from First United Methodist, four handbell ringers attended from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Lakemont.
Debbie Johnson, director of music at St. John, said she previously attended one of the guild's three-day clinics at Split Rock Resort in the Pocono Mountains, and it was nice to have a workshop close to home.
Johnson said the handbell choir tries to play at a Sunday Mass monthly from September through April or May and plays at the Advent concert where the parish's voice choirs sing.
She said the parish looks forward to the concert each year and appreciates the selections the choir plays once a month at Mass.
"It adds a lot to the liturgy," Johnson said.
Although bells don't have many keys to play or strings to pluck, ringing them does have its challenges. Johnson said a ringer is only responsible for two bells and it's like being responsible for only playing two keys on a piano. However, the player has to know when to ring those bells.
"Timing is very important," she said.
And in order to play a piece, each ringer must be present. She said her husband has substituted if a player is missing, and he must be able to play all the different sizes of bells.
Johnson said she and the three ringers from St. John's who attended the clinic are excited about what they learned and want to share their knowledge with their neighbors in the choir.