They might not reach the same decibel or debauchery levels as Motörhead’s infamous 1982 concert at Kerrisdale Arena, but the Brock House/Kerrisdale Handbell Ringers are grizzled musical veterans in their own right. Founded in 1980 by an Englishman who played bells during the Second World War, the group is the only handbell choir in Vancouver, and has become so popular among Kerrisdale seniors that they’ve had to split into two rehearsal groups.
Jean Peggie, a bell ringer for 20 years and conductor for the last 10, says ringing bells is not for the faint of heart. It takes coordination (most ringers play four different bells in any give song), an ability to read music and, most importantly, dedication.
“If people don’t commit themselves, if they think they’ll go one week and won’t go the next, that’s no good — it’s really an orchestra of bells.”
Boasting three-and-a-half octaves of bells, three octaves of chimes, three octaves of mallets and an assortment of percussion instruments, the group performs at seniors homes across the city, plays concerts at the Kerrisdale Community Centre and is gearing up for the upcoming “spring ring” in Kamloops, where bell ringers from across the province meet up to get their bells wrung.
As for song selection, the group plays everything from classical to religious songs to pop music. Just don’t expect any Lady Gaga, or Motörhead for that matter, in the near future.
“We have to take into consideration who we’re playing for,” Peggie says. “As for popular songs, we attempted ‘Moon River’ once, but it’s a little too complicated.”