Forty-three years ago (1971 for the finger-impaired) a bequest from Grace Ward provided a set of Schulmerich handbells for Raytown Christian Church. Although the bells are precious, acquiring hardware is the easy part.
Church leaders approached Suanne Comfort, a music teacher at Southwood School, to ask her to start a bell choir (how hard could it be?). Little could she have known what a watershed moment that was; she agreed. Suanne knew what handbells were, but the niceties of four-in-hand (playing four bells at a time) bell maintenance, playing techniques, she had no idea.
Move forward forty-three years. Having attended countless seminars and workshops offered by the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (now a much easier to say, Handbell Musicians of America) Suanne is a recognized handbell expert, and is directing and training three handbell choirs and overseeing a fourth. Raytown Christian Church now owns and uses a 5 octave set and a 6 octave set of Schulmerich handbells, and a 4 octave set and 6 octave set (an octave consists of 12 notes, C4 to C5 for instance, with the five accidentals [on a a piano, the black keys]) of Malmark hand chimes. Chalice Bronze honored her upon her fortieth year of leading the bells by commissioning a work from noted handbell arranger, Cynthia Dobrinski.
The Inspiration Ringers will soon embark on its forty-third tour, visiting churches and other institutions, and experiencing the joy of sharing its music and worship of God. Suanne Comfort has retired from public school teaching and is the Director of Music at Raytown Christian Church.
To hear what's going on, the Raytown Christian Church Music Department will present the Spring Festival of Bells (with instrumentalists) Sunday, April 27th, at 7:00 PM, in the church sanctuary. The church is at 6108 Blue Ridge Blvd, Raytown, MO. A freewill offering will be accepted.