Strikepoint Bell Ensemble Comes to Bellevue
July 14th, 2017
Photo Courtesy of Strikepoint
Omaha, NE—Strikepoint, based in Duluth Minnesota, is a church-based, internationally performing handbell ensemble, and they will be in concert at the First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue this Saturday.
The 11-member group pays six plus octaves of bronze handbells, seven octaves of handchimes and two octaves of melody bells.
Bill Alexander, artistic director and player coach of Strikepoint explained the history of handbell music.
“Handbells, as we know them, began in England as a practice instrument for tower bell ringers,” Alexander said. “So rather than practice up in the tower and let the community suffer through that, they invented a smaller handheld bell that they could sit downstairs—or wherever was quiet and warm—and practice. From there it spread out to people playing melodies, and at some point, we brought them to the United States.”
“P.T. Barnum was said to have brought them here is a novelty act. They dressed them up in lederhosen and told them not to speak English. [Handbells] spread mostly in the United States through churches. It really took off in the 1960s and 1970s and that’s brought us to where we are now.”
The group was formed in 1984, and works with all ages, playing all genres from pop to classical. Since then they have performed across the country and overseas in England, Scotland Japan, Hong Kong, and Sweden.
One thing that sets handbell performance apart from more traditional music performances is its physicality. Ringers can’t hold all of their instruments at once, so they have to coordinate their movements carefully on stage.
“It’s a workout for us all to play these things,” Alexander said. “Some of ours weigh 12 or 15 pounds, and you’re playing them hundreds and hundreds of times. Just setting up bells in between pieces and knowing where everything goes is part of the fun and part of the challenge. There’s really nothing else like it. The other challenge is that you can’t practice this on your own very easily. You rely on everybody else to be there. You can’t bring it home and practice, so when you have a rehearsal session you have to be there, and that’s it.”
An added challenge is that Strikepoint doesn’t have a conductor.
“I think it was of just the challenge of performing these things to begin with, because you have to trust everybody around you,” Alexander said. “You have to know how the people on either side of you are going to react. You have to be able to hear a little bigger from one end of the ensemble to the other, and that’s with a conductor. You take the conductor away and suddenly all the nuance, the crescendos and the retards and all those things, have to be done by the entire group, so everybody is individually responsible, but they’re collectively dependent, so as soon as we did that, we jumped quite a few levels I think in our music playing.”
Strikepoint will perform at the First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue this Saturday, July 15 at 7:00pm. For more information, visit Strikepoint.com.