Saturday, December 12, 2009

Warming up in Wayne

Getting ready for tonight's concert- in another room! We'll have to
wait until the sanctuary is free, then set up again, test the balance
again. Expect a big crowd tonight.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Programs through the Years

Last night Phil made a collage by setting out all our concert programs from over the last 5 years. The big jump in design was when we retained the services of Anna Pugsley Graphic Design. Anna's both a great design artist and a great bell ringer.

If you haven't already gotten a copy of Anna's latest work, get one at a Chicago Bronze concert this weekend.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

ELA Library

Warming up at ELA Library in Lake Zurich...

Don't come unless you've made a reservation. The library has already
promised every seat.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Second City Sounds" are here

We got the box of CDs yesterday, and they look great. Big thanks to everyone who pre-ordered a CD; they will be shipped as soon as possible.

Be sure to join us for our the CD debut at our concert this coming Saturday at Friendship Village in Schaumburg.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Listen to "Second City Sounds!"

Our new CD, "Second City Sounds" has been sent to the printer. 16 songs that showcase a wide variety of styles. From Jazz to Rock, Classical to Original Compositions, "Second City Sounds" is a fun musical extravaganza for all.
You can listen to a clip of each song from our website.

We should have copies in our hands later this month, but you can order one now! Be the first to get one shipped to you.
Or you can get one at any of our concerts this year. We would love to see you at our CD debut! Join us Saturday, December 5 at Friendship Village of Schaumburg to celebrate the new recording.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Member Profile: Roberta Dickey

ROBERTA DICKEY of Des Plaines and is a charter member of Chicago Bronze. She holds a music degree from Wichita State University, majoring in violin and in education. She taught music for 10 years in public schools. In her spare time she enjoys quilting, doing other needle crafts, and scrapbooking. Roberta does the scrapbooks for Chicago Bronze. She and her husband, Darrell, enjoy gardening together and have done the landscaping at their church for over 30 years.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Member Profile: Martha Swanson

MARTHA SWANSON lives in Aurora and has rung advanced music at several conferences and festivals across the country. A graduate of Aurora University in 1981 with a Business Administration degree, Martha runs the office for her family’s plumbing business. In her spare time, she volunteers for Midwest Greyhound Adoption, a not-for-profit agency that places retired racing greyhounds in permanent, adoptive homes. With Chicago Bronze since 2005, Martha serves as our Vice President.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Member Profile: Lisa Gutzler

LISA GUTZLER of Mount Prospect is also a charter member of Chicago Bronze. She was introduced to handbells in junior high, and has been ringing ever since. A graduate of Valparaiso University, she majored in Nursing and minored in Spanish. Lisa works as a pediatric nurse at Lutheran General Hospital. In her free time, she enjoys cross-stitch, and traveling with husband, Matt, and daughter, Rachel. Lisa is our equipment manager.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Member Profile: Laura Olsen

LAURA OLSEN lives in Barrington. She plays flute and piano and sings in her church choir. Music is central to her professional life as well. She owns A Joyful Sound, Inc. a piano service business and is a registered member of the Piano Technicians Guild. Now that her 3 sons are grown, she finds time to pursue other interests such as sailboat racing and bicycling.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Member Profile: Jolinda Pacay

JOLINDA PACAY resides in Rolling Meadows is another charter member of Chicago Bronze. She earned a BS in Education from Western Michigan University and has taught primary grades and special education in the northwest suburbs. In her free time, Jolinda enjoys being a grandma for her granddaughters, Savannah, and Lily.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Member Profile: Joanne Nick

JOANNE NICK of Island Lake has been ringing handbells on and off since third grade, and also plays the oboe and euphonium. She graduated with her bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was a member of the Marching Illini. Joanne works as a psychiatric case manager at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital. Outside of music, she enjoys spending time with her husband and playing with their Labrador Retriever, as well as stamping and cross stitching.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Member Profile: Fred Snyder

FRED SNYDER lives in Chicago with his wife and twin daughters. Fred is a charter member of Chicago Bronze and has been ringing handbells since 1983. He is also an accomplished soloist. Fred sings tenor, plays guitar, and occasionally harmonica. In his spare time, Fred is a software developer at World Book. He also is our President.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Member Profile: Cheryl Ondratschek

CHERYL ONDRATSCHEK lives in Winfield with her husband, Bill. Cheryl has a Bachelor of Music degree from North Park College in Chicago and was a music educator for 10 years before entering the business world where she now works for a telemetry services company. Cheryl is also handbell director at St. John Lutheran Church in Wheaton. When she is not playing with her two pups or taking them for a walk she likes to garden, bike, and read.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Member Profile: Carloyn Ohman

CAROLYN OHMAN of Palatine is also a Chicago Bronze charter member. She received a bachelor’s degree from Augustana College. She works in the Molecular Pathology laboratory at ACL Laboratories, isolating and analyzing DNA. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her grandchildren, Jadey, Teale, Caden, and Skylar traveling, reading and doing cross-stitch.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Member Profile: Bill Ondratschek

BILL ONDRATSCHEK of Winfield is married to Cheryl whom he met while both attended North Park College and played in the concert band. Bill received a BA degree and taught elementary education for 9 years. He left teaching to enter a corporate training position for the oldest franchiser of cleaning and restoration franchisees where he is currently Vice President of Franchise Operations. Bill is a member of the St. John Ringers and, coincidentally, he and his wife share the same outside interests.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Listen Online! GIA 2009-2010 Handbell Catalog

Chicago Bronze is the recording group for GIA Publications' handbell catalog. Demo recordings are posted on Jeffers Handbell Supply's website for all to enjoy and, hopefully, purchase.
Chicago Bronze and GIA both work hard to make these recordings as good as they can be in a very short period of time, so that handbell directors can fully appreciate the pieces before buying multiple copies for their choirs.

You can hear Chicago Bronze's recording of the 2009-2010 catalog (with the exception of Psallite and Travelers from Nazareth, which were recorded by the Concord Ringers some time ago).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Profile: Barb Barrett

The first in a series: profiles of Chicago Bronze members!

BARBARA BARRETT of Round Lake first rang handbells in high school and rediscovered them in 1994. She is a charter member of Chicago Bronze. A native Hoosier, Barb earned a BS in Business from Indiana University. She handles
financial reporting for Zebra Technologies. Barb loves spending her free time reading, attending concerts, working puzzles, and watching college basketball.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

11th year kick-off

We had our kick-off last night for the 2009/2010 season. We turned 10 years old last Spring; this will be our 11th year. We're proud of what we've accomplished in that decade, and we are looking forward to another great decade of handbell music.

We have some openings, and we're thrilled that we've had enough interest in auditions that we had to extend them over two weeks. Best of luck to all the candidates! Everyone should watch for some fresh faces this year - be sure to say hi at the next concert.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Recording Do-over

After our last recording session was washed out by the rain, we found a new recording 'studio.' It's a senior living community, where we played a concert in April. It was really pouring the day of the concert, and we noticed it stayed quiet in the auditorium.

There was still a little noise, from cars on the local road and the occasional airplane, but it was still better than our old location. The residents also made some noise earlier in the evening, but got quiet as the night went on. We resolved to play the loud pieces first next time we record.

It was also really warm and humid - because we asked that the air conditioning be turned off. Nothing worse than the A/C kicking in during the recording. That problem will also lessen in the Fall and Winter.

Hopefully this all means our next CD will be produced this Summer, and available for purchase by December.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Gallery, Ars Viva

There's a new photo gallery posted on our scrapbook page with pictures from the Friendship Village of Schaumburg concert.

We should be getting more photos and some video posted throughout the Summer.

We're working on some music for next year's GIA catalog right now. Soon we'll be working on the music for the upcoming appearance June 26 and 27 with the Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra at the Dominican University Performing Arts Center

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Recording Wash Out

As mentioned earlier on this blog, Chicago Bronze records a few songs from each concert season. We're just one session away from finishing our second CD.

We were all set up in the church were we usually do our recordings when the rain started. The sanctuary roof is apparently quite thin, and the rain was very loud.

We worked for a while before our engineer (Bob from Advanced Audio) said he didn't think we could get a quality recording. The background noise sounded like a hiss like from an old tape recorder. If it had been a demo recording, we might have let it go, but we wanted the highest possible quality.

We checked the weather radar, and it did look like it would get better any time soon, so we called it a night and went home. Hopefully we'll find another time when everyone can get together before we start drifting away for summer travels.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Trip Summary

We're back from our trip to Kalamazoo. It was a long day, as most of us make the 3-hour drive in both directions on the same day, but fortunately the 6 hours of sitting in the car was broken up by 6 hours of standing behind the tables ringing bells.

It was great ringing with the other groups, the Capitol City Ringers and the Kalamazoo Ringers, and their respective directors, Jane C. Wright and Janet Van Valey.

We also debuted some live photos from the event here on our blog, a first for us. No photos from during the concert, though; we were too busy ringing.

If you weren't able to come to the concert, or to Friday's concert in Park Ridge, we hope you'll make on of our concerts next week.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


CB at a distance

Bronze ring invitational

Here we are (front) with the Capitol City Ringers (center) and the
Kalamazoo Ringers (far side) in Kalamazoo

Friday, April 17, 2009

Our new banner!

We got our new banner... Wow, that's bright. Compared to the old
banner which was black.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Straussian Weather

We've mentioned Strauss' Thunder and Lightnight Polka before, but here's some more information about Johann Strauss, Jr, "The Waltz King," and his weather-related composition.

"In the 19th century, Viennese music (dance) was dominated by Johann Strauss Sr. and his three sons Johann Jr., Josef and Eduard. Johann Strauss Jr. in all composed over 170 waltzes" [1]of which the most famous today is the "Blue Danube," written in 1867. Thunder and Lightning was published the following year, in 1868.

"Johann Strauss, Jr. (center) was born October 25, 1825 the first of five children. A number of great composers encountered parental opposition when they decided to undertake a musical career, but none met more than Johann Jr. His father, Johann Sr., had decided that one musician in the family was enough and went to great lengths to keep his sons from following in his footsteps. Ironically, all three, Johann Jr., Josef (1827-1870) and Eduard (1835_1916) achieved success as musicians.

"It was his mother, Anna, who encouraged Johann's ambition, who bought him his first violin and saw to it that he received musical instruction. Little Johann secretly studied the violin, making his first attempt at writing a waltz at 6 years of age.

"From 1841 on, Johann Strauss Jr. was a student of the Polytechnic school. He was not very interested in accounting and was expelled for "misbehavior" two years after he joined the school. No one could help him not even a private teacher. Johann skipped the private lessons and spent all his time studying music. He still took violin
lessons from his mother, then he got a permit from the police that allowed him
to play with an orchestra of 12-15 people in public houses." [1]

"Possibly the noisiest of Strauss' dance pieces, Unter Donner und Blitz [Thunder
and Lightning] evokes the sound of thunder and lightning through incessant
timpani rolls and cymbal crashes. In the first half of section A, a loud timpani
roll occurs every four measures, while the cymbals crash on each beat of the
detached descending melody of the second half. Drum answers cymbal in the
arching woodwind tune that begins section B, moving the accent to the second
beat of the measure. A note-for-note return of section A completes the
traditional ternary form, and a rambunctious coda creates a thunderous close.
The only peculiar aspect of Unter Donner und Blitz is the percussive,
eight-measure bridge between the two parts of section A, and the absence of any
return to the first part of section A. Clearly, Strauss sought to amuse as much
as compose a successful piece of music. ~ All Music Guide " [2]


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rock Around the Clock

On the program this Spring is "Rock Around the Clock" by Max Freeman and Jimmy DeKnight, arranged for handbells by Carol Lynn Mizell. While perhaps not the first recording of its kind, Rock Around the Clock is considered the song that started the Rock and Roll era.

The song was written in 1952 for Bill Haley and the Comets. Haley knew he had a hit song for a new sound, but convincing the producers at his label, Essex Records, proved difficult. Not until Haley switched to Decca Records in 1954 was he able to record it, as the B-side to the "Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town)."

The song was widely recognized until it was heard with the opening credits to the 1955 movie "Blackboard Jungle." It is reported that producers were looking to choose music that was popular with kids. The movie's star actor, Glenn Ford, pulled the album from his then-10-year-old son's collection, and it was chosen for the film. The song's popularity soared, becoming the #1 song in America for eight straight weeks.

Haley would re-record the song many times, as did many other artists, but none have ever been as popular as the original, legendary recording. The song re-appeared on the charts in 1974 when it was used as the opening song for the first season of the television show "Happy Days."

The arrangement for handbells by Mizell incorporates an unusual handbell technique, designed to mimic a trombone "slide." Trombones can easily play a note and slowly move to another note, but each handbell have has a distinct note. The effect is achieved by playing both the first note and the second note at the same time, but changing the direction of the bell so that the audience hears the first note predominately at first, then slowly shifts so that the second note is heard louder than the first. In fact both bells are ringing the entire time. What's most disconcerting to the ringer is that you don't hear the effect if you're too close; only a listenter from a distance will hear the dominant note stand out.

Bill Haley once said "No matter how bad a show might be going some night, I know that song will pull us through. It's my little piece of gold." We hope so, too.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


On the program this Spring is a great new arrangement from famed handbell composer Kevin McChesney: Enya's "Orinoco Flow," more commonly known by it's refrain of "Sail Away." The song reached #1 in the UK in 1988, and was popular throughout the 1990's.

Enya is Ireland's best-selling solo artist; she would be Ireland's top music export were it not for U2. Bono and Enya surely represent some of the the largest musical empires per-letter, along with Elvis and Madonna.
Enya's distinctive sound is performed almost exclusively by herself, layering multiple recordings as many as 80 times to create the final product. She also utilizes multiple languages, including Irish, Welsh, Latin, Japanese, and both High and Common Elven (created by J.R.R. Tolkien, recorded for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy).

Orinoco flow, however, is entirely in English. You can read the lyrics, with its catalog of rivers from around the world, as well as references to music industry executives. The title probably has a dual meaning, referring to the Orinoco river in South America, and the Orinoco Studio where it was recorded.

Enya's layered style is adapted to handbells by Kevin McChesney, who has arranged a wide variety of modern popular songs for handbells, as well as many original compositions and hymns. Kevin's arrangement of "Sing We Now of Christmas" is on our "Christmas in the City" CD.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Olympic Fanfare

All of Chicago is talking about the Olympics coming in 2016. At this time, Chicago is just a contender; the decision will be made on October 2, 2009.
But that hasn't stopped our enthusiasm about the Games, so this Spring we'll be playing "Olympic Fanfare" by Leo Arnaud, transcribed for handbells by Robert C. Currier.

Americans all consider this piece to be synonymous with the Olympics Games. The timpani introduction, the brass section proudly stating the theme, the middle bridge section that reminds us of atheletes moving faster than we could previously imagine. Of course, like all iconic Americana, we tend to embellish the story about the song, adding details that should be true, even if they're not.

First, the Olympic Fanfare is not the Olympic Anthem. The Olympic Anthem was written for the 1896 Olympics, the first Olympic games of the modern era.
Arnaud wrote "Bugler's Dream" as part of a larger work in 1957. For the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France, ABC chose the the piece as their anthem, embedding it into the minds of Americans, as we listened every night for two weeks every four years.

Secondly, many people would say that the piece was written by John Williams, famed erstwhile director of the Boston Pops. Traditionally, each host country commissions a new song to represent the games that year. Williams was commissioned for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and wrote "Olympic Theme and Fanfare." In 1992, Williams re-recorded the piece, replacing the first section with Arnaud's theme, merging the two together.

Once ABC lost their exclusive rights to the Olympic broadcast in 1988, Americans missed the chance to hear the song before and after every commercial while watching the games in Seoul. But in 1992, NBC revived the piece for their coverage of the Barcelona Olympics. NBC continues to use both "Bugler's Dream" and "Olympic Theme and Fanfare" in their Olympic coverage.

The music reminds us of the spirit as well as the spectacle of the Olympics, and Chicago Bronze is pleased to bring it to you this year, in anticipation of the Olympic Games in Chicago.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

In the Mood for bell music

Chicago Bronze is back in the swing of things! We completed another recording series for GIA, which will be included in the 2009 catalog. Now we've started on our Spring concert series. You can find one of our April concert near you on our web site.

One of the new pieces we'll be playing is "In the Mood," arranged by Herb Geisler.
In the Mood was originally called the "Tar Paper Stomp," written by Wingy Manone in 1929, but it's the 1939 recording by Glenn Miller Orchestra that made the song a famous anthem of the "big-band" era.
It has since become a jazz standard, and has been performed by a wide variety of artists. The strangest rendition is debatably the 1977 version by Ray Stevens, who performed the song entirely in chicken clucks, which beame a top-40 hit in both the United States and the United Kingdon.

While it might be fun for each of us to cluck our notes, we decided to stick with playing them on handbells.