Handbells, gospel choir perform Monday evening
On Monday evening, two groups from Mineral Area Fine Arts Academy will perform in their final concert for this semester.
The Mineral Area Gospel Sound features two premier ensembles, the Gospel Singers and the Handbell Ringers. They will perform together Monday at 7 p.m. in the worship center of First Baptist Church DeLassus. The church is located at 4086 Second St. in Farmington. There is no admission, just a suggested donation.
The Handbell Ringers consist of 12 ringers who have all been together, with the exception of two, since they started two years ago. The group rehearses Mondays at 5:30 p.m. throughout the school year.
The Handbell Ringers play a four-octave Malmark Handbell set. A four-octave group generally consists of 13 to 14 ringers. As the group continues to develop their ringing skills, a fifth-octave add-on set will be added, as well as four more positions for additional ringers. It takes money, though. To add the fifth octave costs about $15,000. The group will need to raise about $16,000 to $17,000, total.
For those interested in learning to ring handbells, a handbell techniques class required for new ringers will be offered. The cost for this class is $240 for the first semester.
“If you are interested in learning to ring handbells, we will offer a handbell techniques class that is required for all new ringers,” said Isaac Hallock, an instructor at MAFAA. “The class itself is $240 for the first semester. Those wishing to enroll in Handbell Techniques should plan to commit to the entire semester in order to really begin understanding the art of handbell ringing.”
The techniques class is open to anyone 14 years of age and older. The registration fee for the Handbell Ringers ensemble is $20 every session.
There are currently two openings for the 2023-24 ringing season. Anyone who has ringing experience and is interested in joining the group should contact Hallock at 618-593-3368.
The Handbell Ringers will get a much-needed rest but resume rehearsals with the start of the MAFAA’s Fall 2023 first session.
The Gospel Singers is the other part of the Mineral Area Gospel Sound. They rehearse on Monday evenings from 7-9 p.m. at First Baptist Church DeLassus.
Hallock said the gospel group is currently “small in number but mighty in power.”
“We are always looking for more musicians to join our ensemble,” he said. “We currently have singers from 15 to 72.”
The gospel ensemble is open to anyone 14 years of age and older.
“The Singers will be getting the month of June off to recover from the super fun and exciting rehearsals I lead,” said Hallock. “Typically, the Gospel Singers have 12-15 participating. However, the vision is to have 50 or more singing with us by the beginning of our fourth year (2024-25).”
Hallock said this is a lofty goal. “But once people get a feel for the music that we sing and the ministry that it brings, we are sure to surpass that goal,” he said.
The Gospel Singers will begin rehearsals on July 10 from 7-9 p.m. for their Summer Night of Worship event which takes place on Aug. 13 at 7 p.m. This event is open to anyone in the community who is 14 years of age or older.
“This particular evening will be special for the Gospel Singers because we are inviting singers and musicians from all of the churches in the Mineral Area to join us in the choir loft or in the orchestra,” said Hallock. “We will also need at least one, maybe two narrators. Many times, churches will give their choirs the summer off. The Gospel Singers want to offer those musicians an alternative to their summer hiatus by asking them to join us.”
The rehearsal schedule dates are July 10, 17, 24, 31 and Aug. 7. Dress rehearsal is Aug. 12 from 6-9 p.m. for the Aug. 13 event.
During the 2023-24 Mineral Area Gospel Sound season, the handbell ensemble and choirs from Missouri Baptist University will perform together for a few festive events.
Hallock said the ensemble is always looking for other opportunities to perform outside of their MAFAA commitments and continue to spread their love for all gospel-related music.
The group will have its large Christmas celebration in December and possibly make a trip to Branson during the holiday season.
For spring 2024, the gospel group will present a “Hymn History” evening.
“This concert will focus on various hymn arrangements and the powerful stories of how each hymn was born and how each selected hymn has influenced generations of believers to walk close to God,” said Hallock.
The Handbell Ringers will likely play a few selections for the concert but will focus on a special medley of selections from the musical Les Miserables to present as part of the dessert theater.
The group is always looking for opportunities in which we can collaborate and support other ensembles at MAFAA and Mineral Area College. The Ringers will also present a concert which features many iconic and well-known theme songs from the cinema.
When the Mineral Area Gospel Sound performs with both of its current ensembles, each ensemble generally performs five to six selections. When they perform separately, they usually perform 8-10 selections, depending on the length and difficulty level of each of the selected pieces.
“I have been a worship pastor for well over 25 years and have served churches from 50 to 1,500 in attendance on a weekly basis,” said Hallock. “Because of that, I’ve been extremely blessed to work with children, youth, adult, and intergenerational choirs and handbell choirs.”
He said working with musicians, whether they’re singers or instrumentalists, has been one of the joys of his calling.
“Seeing people come together and not only make music but to perform music that has such a wonderful topic — the gospel of Jesus Christ — is a blessing that nobody can take away from you,” said Hallock.
He said his interest in handbells began during his sophomore year of high school. That summer, he attended the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Youth Music Camp. He signed up for a handbell techniques class and fell in love with ringing.
“From there, I have had the opportunity to ring in mass bell choirs that included more than 200 ringers and thousands of bells,” he said. “I am glad to be able to not only ring again but to direct such a fine group of ringers.”
Hallock will teach class piano, class voice, music theory for pianists, handbell techniques, and other various vocal and keyboard specialty classes. In addition to those classes, he will continue to teach private instruction in voice, piano, and organ. He will direct the Mineral Area Gospel Sound, which may add new ensembles.
“Perhaps a men’s group or older youth choir could be making its way onto the schedule for the fall/spring options,” he said.
Pam Clifton is a contributing writer whose work also appears in Missouri Life magazine.