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Teens Invited to Play Bells for College Fund Bonus

October 12, 2008

By ERIC FEBER

By Eric Feber

The Virginian-Pilot

Ring out the bells! Tex R. Minter wants to give area teens the opportunity to…ring out the bells.

These are not those colored plastic bells once used in elementary schools. The handbells Tex R. Minter has are brass miniatures of church steeple bells that can range from the highest C to the deepest G on the scale.

In the right hands with the right music, those individual bells can create music that Minter calls “heavenly.”

The Churchland resident is in the throes of founding BelCantus , a community handbell orchestra open to all interested area teens, ages 13-17, who can read music. He’s hoping to interest about 64 teens in the fine art of creating mellifluous sounds out of bells and chimes

What is it about handbells that drew Minter in?

“There’s something magical about bells,” he said with a rhapsodic look in his eyes. “They are the voices of angels. They touch on one’s emotions; they sooth, calm and inspire. If you think Bach, for example, sounds great on an organ, you should hear him on bells.”

The instruments were first brought to these shores from the British Isles in the late 1800s by none other than P.T. Barnum, who hired seven English bell ringers to perform as “Swiss Bell Ringers” in his circus.

Minter, whose wife Nancy is music director at the Covenant United Methodist Church in Chesapeake, has a musical education degree from Shenandoah Conservatory.

He directed the Chesapeake-based baroque ensemble, St. Cecilia Performing Arts Association, in the 1980s and 1990s and founded the Virginia Handbell Consort in 1996, which is now based on the Peninsula.

During the past three decades, handbell playing, composing and transcribing has taken off in America.

“We’ve done more for handbell music the last 30 years; now the U.S. leads the way,” he explained. “And the music is still evolving.”

Over the course of about 30 years, Minter has collected dozens of handbells. His cache now includes 61 Schulmerich handbells, 61 Schulmerich melodychimes, 52 Petit & Fritsen handbells and 25 Schulmerich silver melody bells along with 25 cup bells and 31 crotals (a.k.a. ancient Irish bells).

He’s got the bells and now he’s looking for teens to wield them in a regional handbell orchestra to feature up to 64 players, who will perform on upwards of 300 bells and chimes. Minter said there’s several handbell choirs of eight to 14 members in the area, but a 60- plus member orchestra would be a first for Hampton Roads.

And why teens?

“Many of the bells I have are a bit too big for young folks, especially the bass bells, and there’s already a community group for adults based on the Peninsula,” he explained. “Teens are basically left out. Generally, they don’t want to play for a church group, they want something for themselves and BelCantus will afford them the opportunity. And they’ll bring in so much energy, strength and enthusiasm.”

Minter knows teens don’t want to be saddled with a strictly religious musical repertoire.

“Much of it will be the current standard handbell musical literature to include liturgical music and seasonal, Christmas music,” he explained. “But there will be some off-the-wall, kicky music, too, the stuff kids get into. I have an arrangement for ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ and I have them for many Broadway songs, jazz and big band songs. We’ll play stuff that kids won’t be introduced to if they joined a standard handbell choir.”

Minter said besides the joy of heavenly music, the teen musicians will be given the opportunity to earn scholarships.

“The money levels will depend on how much work each musician will do and how long he or she will stick with it; it will depend on how much the student and parents are willing to put in,” Minter said. “We’ll perform spring galas and other concerts, and for every ticket sold it can go into a scholarship fund. A 13-year-old who stays with the program could graduate with a very hefty scholarship.”

Besides teen musicians willing to commit to BelCantus, Minter is also looking for various area churches to commit a space for Monday and Wednesday rehearsals.

So far he’s secured the St. Andrew Lutheran Church at 4811 High St., and the West Side Christian Church, 535 Cherokee St., both in Portsmouth.

He’s still looking for places in the Norfolk, Great Bridge and Kempsville areas.

“These locations must be willing to dedicate a space for storage,” he said. “In lieu of rent we can unite with the church’s music ministry, and allow access to our instruments.”

Minter said, hopefully, the teens will also bring their parents into the mix.

“Success is going to depend upon a strong, active parent support group,” he said. “If you can commit, there’s a spot for you. And if the interest level is even higher, I can find the additional ins. I have lots of resources.”

Eric Feber, 222-5203, eric.feber@pilotonline.com

find out more

What The formation of BelCantus , a hand-bell orchestra for local teens, ages 13-17.

Who To be directed by T.R. Minter.

When/where The organizational meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 4811 High St., Portsmouth, and 7 p.m. Thursday at West Side Christian Church, 535 Cherokee St., Portsmouth. Parents are encouraged to attend.

More info Call Minter at 488-8806.

The bells, bells, bells

What The formation of BelCantus , a handbell orchestra for area teens, ages 13-17.

Who To be directed by T.R. Minter.

When/where The organizational meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 4811 High St., Portsmouth, and 7 p.m. Thursday at West Side Christian Church, 535 Cherokee St., Portsmouth. Parents are encouraged to attend.

More info Call Minter at 488-8806.

Originally published by BY ERIC FEBER.

(c) 2008 Virginian – Pilot. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.




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