OUR HISTORY WITH BELLS
My first real encounter with bells was as an altar server. One of the most coveted jobs what to ring bells at special times during the Mass. A most interesting situation was when I served at the large Basilica St. Josephats on Milwaukee’s South side. The upper Church with its beautiful Dome, instead of bells, had chimes that we played by pressing a series of buttons. This indeed was my pinnacle of bell ringing as an acolyte.
After college I married my northern belle and music partner, Martha, who happened to have an interesting bell collection. We used these bells to decorate our early apartments in New York. I truly fell in love with the wonderful sound and ringing of bells when a Boston Boys Choir presented a concert with handbells at Our Lady Of Angels in the Bronx, where I was music director. We were developing our singing musical act which included the playing piano, violin and concertina but adding bells as a duo was certainly a unique and special addition, the pièce de résistance.
During that time I also worked with a friend of mine Dan Ritchard who was affiliated with the Bronx Historical Society. They were custodians of the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage on the Grand Concourse. We had a most interesting job one warm spring, restoring and painting this historic cottage. Later in the summer Martha and I presented a bell concert at the cottage. It was believed that this is where Poe wrote his poem “The Bells”. The bells he apparently heard daily were down the road at Fordham University.
We became interested in the bell collecting organization, the ABA (the American Bell Association Ltd.) and attended one day of their convention in Hartford. Our family met a lovely, gracious lady, Louise Collins, who welcomed us and introduced us to several other bell members. I was taken in by all the multi-cultural ways that bells interface with our lives. I also thought this would be a wonderful learning experience for our four talented children who from time to time joined us with summer concerts in the Catskill Mountain resorts of New York.
Besides joining the ABA we also joined the AGEHR (American Guild of English Handbell Ringers) and we were invited to perform at an Area One conference. There we met another special, giving person, Kathy Fink Hines who gave us interesting and helpful coaching to improvement in our handbell playing.
Early in our bell ringing days the uniqueness of bells garnered us an invitation to perform for CitiBank and Pepsico. During the Christmas Season and we also performed at Macy’s, Lord and Taylor and some distinctive NYC department stores.
We were very pleased to be invited to perform at the United Nations in 1992 for Earth Day (March 20, the vernal equinox, which happens to by my birthday) and the Japanese Peace Bell Ceremony. This was a pivotal moment in the history of ringing this bell for only three months earlier, in December of 1991, M. Gorbachev stepped down, the Soviet Union was dissolved and the Russian people were finally allowed to ring their bells after 70 years of silence under Communist Control.
Since then I have been able to play the Washington National Memorial Carillon at Valley Forge, probably my first and last carillon experience. We presented a program at the Strong Museum in Rochester and featured the bells on the Titanic. We also presented a program for the Bok Tower and Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, near Orlando, for their 75th Anniversary and the 19th International Carillon Festival. This summer, we have been invited to perform at the International Bell Festival and National Seminar in Orlando. We will debut and original work “One World” and several new duo arrangements and spread our message of how bells can be special symbols of Peace and Freedom in a world that so desperately is crying for this message of Fraternity and Love among all peoples.
Since there are several Peace Bells world wide but few of us will ever get to see them much less ring or hear them ring. We have therefore decide to bring this message of Freedom and Peace to all who have access to the Internet and hope you will join us: