Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Handbell Podcast Review

It's been a couple months, but if you're not a regular listener to the Handbell Podcast, check out the October 14, 2008 show. (You'll find the player at the bottom of the page.)

There is an interview with CB director Phil Roberts, recorded at the recent International Handbell Symposium in Orlando.

Also featured is a review of our Christmas in the City CD.
Dean Jensen said in his review "Excellent CD; I'm thinking it's probably now one of my favorite handbell Christmas CDs."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The end of another season

Chicago Bronze has reached the end of another concert season. This December we were in Lombard, Elmhurst, Lake Zurich, Wayne, Gurnee, Rolling Meadows, Morton Grove and of course at our home in Arlington Heights. Thanks to all of our hosts for providing us the opportunity to share our music with you.

Special congratulations to Resurrection Catholic Church in Wayne, for setting a new record: 570 people came to hear the concert, the largest number yet for a Chicago Bronze-only event. We've played to larger audiences, such as at the National Pastoral Musicians' conference, but the energy in the room was unlike like anything we'd felt before.

It was especially great to talk to the bell ringers at Resurrection, who apparently had never seen handbells played by anyone else before. We hope that our concert will help bring their nascent choir to musical excellence in their ministry.

If you didn't get a chance to see us this year, don't forget you can always have Chicago Bronze in your home for Christmas by picking up a copy of our CD, Christmas in the City.
Save the date for our spring concert, April 26 at Friendship Village of Schaumburg!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Listen Online!

As noted earlier, you can hear the Chicago Bronze recordings for the GIA Music's handbell catalog online, courtesy of Jeffers Handbell Supply.

Here's links to Chicago Bronze recordings for GIA:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parade of the Wooden Soldiers

This December Chicago Bronze will once again feature solo ringer Fred Snyder, performing "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" by Leon Jessel.

In the "Reader's Digest Merry Christmas Songbook" (1981), William L. Simon wrote:
Léon Jessel caught the jaunty strut of toys exactly when he wrote his Parade of the Wooden Soldiers as a novelty item in 1905. It was published in Germany and apparently heard there by a Russian producer who was readying a new revue for Paris bearing the title La Chauve-Souris (The Bat), for which he needed an offbeat dance number. He chose Jessel's rakish "Parade." The Bat opened on Broadway, finally, in 1922, and Ballard Macdonald, who wrote songs for the George White Scandals of 1924 and Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic, gave the tune the lyrics given below and that seldom heard anymore. The arm-swinging melody and strutting rhythm of the piece make the march a charming one for children and adults at Christmas or any time of the year.
The toy shop door is locked up tight, and ev'rything is quiet for the night,
When suddenly the clock strikes twelve, the fun's begun!
The dolls are in their best arrayed, there's going to be a wonderful parade.
Hark to the drum, oh, here they come, cries ev'ryone
Hear them all cheering. Now they are nearing. There's the captain stiff as starch
Bayonets flashing, music is crashing, as the wooden soldiers march
Sabres a-clinking, soldiers a-winking, at each pretty little maid.
Here they come, here they come, here they come, here they come, wooden soldiers on parade!

The arrangement for handbell solo was written by Solo Artist Extraordinaire Christine Anderson, published under the title "Parade of the Tin Soldiers." It utilizes a large range of bells, almost a full three ocatves; Fred will be managing 24 bells, and trying hard to always put each bell back where it came from. When you come to the concert, try watching a single bell as it is picked up, weaved into the melody and then returned to the same spot on the table.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Joy to the World

The newsletters are out this week, so if you're on our mailing list, you should get it in the mail soon. If you're not on the mailing list, you can read it online from our website.

This year we'll be playing "Joy to the World," arranged by Alan Lohr (Soundforth).
The tune is widely considered to be from the "Messiah," by George Frideric Handel. This belief comes from notes made by the arranger, Lowell Mason. The original manuscript said "from George Frederic Handel." While it may have been based on phrases from Messiah, many scholars believe that it was created by Mason. Mason took the scripture-based text by Isaac Watts to create today's well-recognized carol.
Whoever the true composer was, Lohr has written a beautiful arrangement for handbells that is energetic and, well, joyful.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Charlie Brown

First, Chicago Bronze would like to say how pleased we are that our director, Philip L. Roberts, was named to the Board of Directors of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers. Chicago Bronze is a proud member of the AGEHR, and we're excited that Phil will be working to promote handbell music nationally, as well as locally.

Second, we're pleased to present not one, but two of Phil's pieces this season. One of them is an arrangement of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
The award-winning animated television special based on Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" characters was first broadcast in 1965, and every year since.
Reportedly, "executives thought that the jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi would not work well for a children's program. When executives saw the final product, they were horrified and believed the special would be a complete flop." Not only was the show a success, the "Linus and Lucy" motif became famous as the Peanuts theme.
Phil's arrangement, commissioned by the Purdue University Handbell Choir, prominently features "Linus & Lucy," and includes many other themes from the show, particularly "Christmas Time is Here."
It does not, however, call for dancing like the Peanuts gang. That was added somewhat later by some of our more eager ringers, who reportedly spent hours watching the show over and over, researching the proper dance moves.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

March of the Kings and Farandole

The March of the Kings is a traditional French carol that was used by Georges Bizet (1838-1875), of "Carmen" fame, as part of his arrangement of incindental music for a play, L'Arlésienne (usually translated ad "The Girl from Arles" (Arles, of Vincent van Peep fame)).
You may recognize this carol when you come to a Chicago Bronze concert this December, but be sure to listen for the closing section, which is entirely different in character. Valerie Stephenson's arrangement includes the Farandole from the second act of the play. The second act's score, while originally written by Bizet, was re-arranged by Ernest Guiraud after Bizet's death.

According to Wikipedia, a Farandole is "an open-chain community dance popular in the County of Nice, France. Traditionally led by the "abbat-mage holding a beribboned halberd, the dancers hold hands and skip at every beat; strong beats on one foot, alternating left and right, with the other foot in the air, and weak beats with both feet together... Musically, the dance is in 6/8 time, with a moderate to fast tempo, and played by a flute and drum."

When you hear this section at the concert, and if you're listening for it, it will be hard to miss, feel free to get up and practice your Farandole moves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Little Drummer Boy

The Little Drummer Boy, originally known as The Carol of the Drum, is adapted from a Chech melody, but was first created in the form we know it today by Katherine K Davis in 1941. It has been recorded by a wide variety of artists since then, from the Von Trapp Family Singers (of "Sound of Music" fame) to Alicia Keys. One recording featured the classic duet of Bing Crosby and David Bowie. Our arrangement comes from another amazing performance group: Campanile. This Los Angeles-based sextet pushed the boundaries of what it meant play handbells, incorporating rhythm instruments and dance into their Jazz performances. Chicago Bronze may not be dancing while we play this piece, but we'll definitely be having fun.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Christmas in October

We started working on our December concert this past week, so now we're all whistling Christmas and holiday music as we walk down the street, even though it's only October. Never fear, the stores will be catching up to us soon.

Our concert schedule is now available, and we hope you'll find a concert near you this December.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back from Break with a Recording

Chicago Bronze has returned from Summer break! And we wasted no time in getting going.

Chicago Bronze performs the catalog recordings for GIA Music's handbell publications, but we were asked this year if we could also help out with some choral pieces as well. Four new pieces from GIA are written for choir and bells.

It was a privilege, as well as fun, working with William Chin, Assistant Director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. He is also the founder and artistic director of The Oriana Singers. In his spare time, he is the music director for the First United Church of Oak Park, the Oak Park and River Forest Children’s Chorus, the Oak Park and River Forest Symphony Chorus, and the Anshe Emet Synagogue Choir.

Space was a little tight - we could barely see over the piano - but we got some great music recorded that night.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Peoria Rings My Bells

We didn't go as a full group, but some of Chicago Bronze went to the Area VIII regional festival in Peoria, IL. The festival had 500 ringers from 5 states. We even made front-page news.

The festival was a lot of fun. We met a lot of people, and we played some great music. Any ringers that have never been to a festival should definitely attend - it's an experience you'll never forget.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Listen Online!

It's true that we don't have any handbell music live on
But the fine folks at Jeffers Handbell Supply post up an audio file with new releases, which come from the publisher's demo CD.
Since Chicago Bronze records the demo CDs for GIA, you can hear our GIA recordings online!
Take a look at the GIA 2007 Handbell Catalog and click on any of the yellow logos to hear the song, performed by Chicago Bronze.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Post-season

You'd think we'd take a break after the Cutting Hall concert, but we were right back at rehearsal on Monday, getting ready some of the latest publications from GIA for recording next month.

At our business meeting, we debated adopting a slogan, "Most of the Notes, Most of the Time," but the motion was rejected. OK, we didn't really debate it, but it was suggested.
If you've got a suggestion for a slogan or tag line (a good one or even an unusable one), let us know by posting a comment here on the blog!

Thanks to everyone who came to the Cutting Hall concert. Special thanks to our volunteers who welcomed people while we were hiding backstage.
It's been a great Spring season. We really enjoyed the music in this year's program, and we hope you enjoyed it as well.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Time to Record

Next week we'll be taking some of the songs from this season's Storm Warning concert and recording them to be included on a CD in the future.

Many people have asked when our next CD will be ready. Here's how we do it. Thanks to former CB ringer Karen Baumann for sharing this idea with us.

Each season, December and Spring, we schedule a recording session. We can record 4 or 5 songs in an evening, so we pick the songs we think would work best on a CD.
Our target is to get 16 songs on a CD, so it can take 4 seasons to build up enough tracks to publish a CD.
We worked extra hard to finally get Christmas in the City out. Next year, we'll finish the new CD of Spring-season titles from the past 4 years. Two years later, we should have another Christmas CD, and so on every 2 years.

Huge thanks to everyone who bought a CD. We're looking forward to the release of the next one in time for December 2009. It's going to have a really wide variety of music and will showcase how versatile handbells can be.
What do you think we should call the CD next year? Post back with your ideas!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Back from our Travels

We made it back from Cedar Rapids, the City of Five Seasons. Apparently the fifth season is Bell Season, and based on some of the comments of some of the folks we met, it was apparently well underway.

We had a great time at the workshop. Everyone got a chance to participate, and hopefully everyone walked away having learned something.
Some people tried to obtain the secret of the "Fred Flip," for switching between a Shelley and 4IH without putting the bell down. The FF continues to be an advanced technique which requires much patience and practice.

The concert was also a great success, in the accoustically-friendly chapel at Mt. Mercy College, which co-hosted the event with the Iowa State AGEHR committee. Thanks to everyone who came, and we hope we see some of you in Peoria this summer.

The Sandwich concert the next day was also well worth the trip, though most of us did not, in fact, eat a sandwich there. Apparently just about everyone eats at the Santa Fe Mexican restaurant on Church Street. This concert was notable as it was the first CB concert attended by a service dog, Henry the Poodle.
Proceeds from the concert were donated to the local food pantry, and we're thrilled to be a part of the Federated Church's outreach ministry.

Thank you to everyone who came to see us this weekend. We hope we get a chance to see you again soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Concert Weekend

The concert weekend is finally here! We're heading to Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Saturday!
Everyone's got their carpool assignments.
We took out the brand new Port-a-bell cases for their inaugural journey.
We've got the workshop planned. There were 24 registered participants last week, but that number has doubled in just the past few days.

This trip represents a lot of firsts for Chicago Bronze, and we're looking forward to a great trip.

The trip Sunday to Sandwich, IL is not quite as far, but new to Chicago Bronze. We can't wait to meet the folks in Sandwich and find out what the local cuisine is like.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia On My Mind," arranged by Hart Morris, has returned to the Chicago Bronze line-up this season. While it's the state song of Georgia, it was actually written for Carmichael's sister Georgia.

We love this piece, not just for the swinging rhythm and strong bass lines, but because it brings out a style that one typically does not hear from handbells. It's also fun to sing along! Not that that would ever happen at one of our rehearsals...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mailers are out!

Our latest newsletter is in the mail! If you're on our mailing list, you should be receiving it soon. If not, it's also on our website.


Another piece on this season's program is the Largo from Antonin Dvorak's Symphony #9 (From the New World), arranged by Valerie Stephenson. Valerie calls it "among the most enduring and appealing" pieces in symphonic literature. You may recognize it as the tune of the spiritual "Goin' Home."

It's arranged for 3 or 4 octaves of handbells, with optional handchimes, oboe, flute or C instruments. Chicago Bronze will be presenting this piece as just that: the bells, the handchimes, oboe by our own Joanne Nick and flute by our own Laura Olsen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mancini Magic

Another popular arrangement returning to our program is "Mancini Magic" by Doug Wagner. This week we spent a lot of time polishing up difficult spots, and so we spent a lot of time on the "Pink Panther" theme included in this medley of Henry Mancini favorites. "Moon River" and "Charade" are also included in this arrangement, but my personal favorite is the "Baby Elephant Walk." One just cannot listen to this section without feeling the need to get up and dance like an elephant. I've heard elephants are very good dancers when the music is the right tempo.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


One piece we've brought back this season is Cumulonimbus, by Matthew Prins.
We first saw this piece when it was a new publication by GIA a few years ago. It's a whirlwind to follow the shifting meter. Driving 8th notes build the momentum as the storm approaches and hits the listener with its driving force.
Matthew has recently moved to the Chicago area last year, so we hope he'll come and listen. It will be much better than the version recorded for the GIA catalog recording, because we will have more than a couple weeks rehearsal.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Thunder and Lightning

It was an exciting first rehearsal of the season. While there are several pieces we've played before, one of the new exciting additions is the "Thunder and Lightning Polka," by Johann Strauss, arranged by Robin Benton from Flagstaff Publishing. Phil recently wrote: "I don’t know if we’ve rung anything at quarter=150 but if we’re ever going to do so, this is the piece." Lots of louds and softs that really make it sound like you're in a storm.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Photo Scrapbook

Photos from our concert last December have been posted to our scrapbook. It's our first scrapbook posted on, rather than directly on

Welcome to Chicago Bronze!

Here's our first post on our new blog!

Last week we finished another recording session for GIA, and this Monday we're going to dig in to the music for our Spring season.
There's a lot of good music in there, so we hope you'll join us at one of our concerts in a few months.

We're also taking our official group photo on Monday, so you should see our newest member's face on the website soon.