(March 15, 2019) The annual Handbell Musicians of America Area 3 performance will take place on Saturday, inside the second-floor ballroom of the Ocean City convent center on 40th Street, beginning at 5 p.m.
The 30-minute concert will consist of nine handbell compositions rung by more than 400 musicians, comprised of 46 choirs. Doors open at 4:45 p.m. for the free performance.
“It’s a bell small enough for an individual to ring,” Paul Brill, chair for the Handbell Musicians of America Area 3 Ocean City festival, said. “We hold one in each hand, and [play] the whole scale of music of the diatonic scales … from C, C sharp, D, D sharp and so forth. Think of the hand bell set as being like a big keyboard and each person is responsible for roughly two, maybe four bells.
“The idea is like any other big festival. You get people together, whether it’s a choir festival or instrumental or anything else, and you get people together that enjoy the same thing,” he continued. “They work on the music and they have the satisfaction of ringing with a lot of other handbell ringers.”
Jason Krug and Kyler Brengle are slated to be guest conductors during this year’s performances.
On Friday, musicians will rehearse from 6:30-9:30 p.m. after registration.
“We come back on Saturday morning and have some mass rehearsals and then the group is divided up … part of the group goes to classes while part of the group continues to rehearse and then we flip that over,” Brill said.
The Area 3 handbell musicians travel from Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and Washington D.C. to perform in Ocean City.
The Ocean City Festival has been held for at least 25 years. Around 150 people viewed the performance last year, Brill said.
“It’s kind of surprising how many folks from the community will come to hear [the concert],” Brill said. “I think it gives folks the opportunity to hear a unique musical instrument … that they don’t hear frequently.”
Another unique factor for the performance is many of the composers for handbell songs are still composing new works, he said.
“You have an opportunity to come in and ring under the person who wrote the music that you’re playing,” Brill said. “Most of the clinicians are pretty personable folks and they’re more than happy to talk with someone if they had a question about, ‘Hey why did you do this’ or, ‘Why did you do that? I have this other piece of yours I worked on. Can you help me think about that?’ So usually folks are very open to chatting and talking about their music but just handbell music in general so it gives you an opportunity to meet someone that you wouldn’t have otherwise with the conditions coming in.”
Each spring, Area 3 holds a trio of festivals, which will be held in Ocean City and Tidewater, Virginia this year.