Illuminating Music for Epiphany

It’s difficult to think past Christmas right now but, it is time to prepare for the 5+ weeks before Ash Wednesday on February 14th.  January 6th begins the season of Epiphany just 12 days after Christmas.  Themes for the season are the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus, the Miracle at Cana and Christ as the Light of the World.  The latter can also be seen as a revelation of Jesus to the world.

When we think Epiphany, we often refer to the Three Kings’ Day.  However, the season has so much more meaning and we can reflect that in the music that we choose for Worship.

 

We’ve compiled a list of titles that will help bring more meaning to this glorious season.  All of which are available for immediate purchase and digital download from the ChimeWorks website:

 

What Star Is This with Beams So Bright – arr. Cathy Moklebust

L1  2 – 3 Octaves or 3 – 5 Octaves

 

A happy, light setting of PUER NOBIS, also subtitled On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry, and That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright, is appropriate for Easter, Advent, or Epiphany. TD, LV, and RT are used.  Learn it now and ring it in April, too!

 

We Three Kings – arr. Valerie Stephenson

L1  2 – 3 Octaves or 3 – 5 Octaves

 

This familiar piece has no more rhythmic difficulty than quarter notes, but it offers some unique challenges. With its dynamic changes, shading and shaping the musical line, ringers can work to develop expressive and musical ringing. Techniques include finger damping and swings.

 

When Morning Gilds the Skies – arr. Karen Roth

L1+  2 – 3 Octaves or 3 – 5 Octaves

 

This setting of the well-known hymn offers excellent opportunities for expressive, musical ringing. It presents ringers with a chance to experience LVs and sensitive, musical ringing of a lovely arrangement.

 

What Star Is This That Beams So Bright – arr. Barbara B. Kinyon

L2-   2 Octaves

 

An easy setting of the tune, PUER NOBIS. May also be used during the Easter season as That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright.

 

One Star – Cheryl J. Rogers/Derek Hakes

L2   3 – 5 Octaves

 

Based on a choral anthem by Cheryl Jones Rogers (CGA460), this handbell transcription effectively captures the beauty and mystery of the original lyrics and music. This flexible piece includes an option for the anthem text to be spoken by a narrator, or, if desired, the bell piece may be used to accompany the singing of the anthem by a vocal soloist or choir.

 

I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light – arr. Cathy Moklebust

L2  2 – 3 Octaves or 3 – 5 Octaves with optional C or Bb instrument

 

Kathleen Thomerson’s popular hymn tune HOUSTON has been treated simply and delicately with minimal bell changes and techniques, making this a very accessible arrangement.  A short original melody comprises the introduction, interludes, and ending.  In the second stanza, the upper treble bells/chimes are played with mallets, while the hymn tune is played by the lower treble and bass.  The optional C or Bb instrument makes a lovely addition.

 

Thy Holy Wings – arr. Cathy Moklebust

L2  3- 5 Octaves

 

“Thy Holy Wings” is a delicate, flowing arrangement of the Swedish folk tune BRED DINA VIDA VINGER. It opens and closes with an original melody. The piece is appropriate for services of baptism or confirmation or for themes of guidance, healing, and comfort.

 

I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry – John Ylvisaker/Martha Lynn Thompson

L2  3 – 6 Octaves

 

The ethereal opening and closing motifs, played on randomly-malleted suspended chimes, suggest the mystery surrounding the beginning and ending of life. The music of the stanzas depicts the various stages of life as described in the hymn text.  Mirroring the opening section, the piece grows softer until the final malleted chord. An optional hymn page for vocal soloist is included. If desired, the hymn text may be read by a narrator, beginning each stanza at the places indicated within the score.

 

Children of the Heavenly Father – arr. Cathy Moklebust

L2  3 – 5 Octaves

 

Now in an expanded version, this short, simple arrangement of the beloved Swedish tune, TRYGGARE KAN INGEN VARA, is delicate and lovely. Appropriate for baptism, confirmation, or any time a musical focus on children is desired.

 

We Three Kings – Sondra Tucker

L3  3 – 5 Octaves

 

This ebullient setting of “We Three Kings” evokes the pilgrimage of the Wise Men through the desert.  Judicious use of thumb-damp keeps the texture light.

Strike a Chord and Join the Chorus – Easy Christmas Lesson Plans

 

Bring some cheer to your class, singing choir rehearsal or Christmas party with these simple carol activities from ChimeWorks.  Using chords or ostinati with handchimes or handbells, our easy to learn harmonizations will put your musicians in the Christmas spirit and have them wanting more throughout the year!

 

Jingle Bells II

Surprise your pre-readers by working on eye-hand coordination with icons and delight them when they ring their beloved carol, Jingle Bells!

 

Pat-a-pan

Ostinati create a delightful accompaniment to Pat-a-pan, a French Christmas carol written by Bernard de la Monnoye (1641-1728) who collected folk songs of Burgundian dialect.  The carol tells of the birth of Christ from the perspective of the shepherds with the text reflecting the sound of the drum – pat-a-pan and of the flute – tu-re-lu-re-lu.

 

Sing Noel!

Go global and celebrate the season with this rhythmic Christmas carol from Liberia using only three chords for harmonic foundation.

 

Joy to the World

A great addition for any social activity during the holidays – distribute the song sheets with handchimes or handbells.  When a word is boxed, the pitch is rung and when it is underscored, the pitch is damped.  Sing in perfect harmony!

 

Christmas Round

Ostinati make this simple, two-part canon sparkle! God Bless All is a Christmas canon that has been sung throughout the centuries.  It’s origin is unknown.

 

Jingle Bells

Three chords chime in Jingle Bells, one of the best known and loved American Christmas carol written in the 1850’s in Massachusetts.

 

Christ Was Born on Christmas Day

Using four chords, harmonize the tune, RESONET IN LAUDIBUS, which dates from the 14th century and was used throughout Europe through the centuries.  The translation below by John Mason Neale is based upon Piae Cantiones, the Swedish collection published in 1582.  Christus natus hodie translates to Christ is born today!

 

Good King Wenceslas

Good King Wenceslas’ text comes from Jon Mason Neale written in 1853.  It is combined with a 13th century tune, Tempus Adest Floridum, a spring-time tune taken from the collection, Piae Cantiones.  The text tells the story of a Czech king, St. Wenceslas, who travels on a winter journey on the feast of St. Stephen to give alms to the poor.  Four chords harmonize this carol beautifully.

 

Angels We Have Heard on High

Perfect for older students and adults, this lesson uses five chords to harmonize the melody.  Angels We Have Heard On High is a French Christmas carol by an unknown text writer and is based on the Gospel of Luke.  It was translated into English during the mid-19th century and gained popularity.  The tune, GLORIA, was arranged by Edward Shippen Barnes.

 

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Using seven chords, harmonize this holiday favorite! We Wish You A Merry Christmas is a traditional English carol celebrating the tradition of giving carolers rewards for singing at one’s door.

 

The above lesson plans are on the ChimeWorks website and available at the low price of $2.29 for immediate purchase and digital download.  If you’re not already a member, log on for your FREE two-week trial today!

Christmas in a Snap

 

Christmas is less than two months away and preparation time for holiday music is quickly diminishing.  Whether you are planning music for a concert, a social gathering or worship, you’ll find the resources below helpful as you choose repertoire.

The collections  feature well-known Christmas carols with the text and  melody line written along with simple chords to be accompanied by handchimes or handbells.  Not only do they avail themselves to almost any ringing ensemble, they are a perfect way to engage your audience this Christmas by having them participate in your program.

Whether you are working with beginning or experiences ringers, these Level 1 arrangements lend themselves to all types of performance possibilities:

  • Solo voice with rung accompaniment
  • Unison Voices with rung accompaniment
  • Bb or C Solo instrument with rung accompaniment
  • Keyboard with rung harmonic accompaniment
  • Combined instrumentation with rung accompaniment

Click the titles below to see sample pages:

Ring & Sing Christmas

12 Christmas carols and 7 secular Christmas songs are presented here as texts paired with simple, chordal, handbell/handchimes accompaniments. Each title is presented in both 2-octave and 3-octave settings. All are in the key most commonly found in hymnals and carol books. The vocal parts can be sung by soloists, choirs, carolers or congregation. The settings may be used alone to accompany group singing or may be added to keyboard-accompanied congregational singing or “sing-alongs.” All the music may be reproduced for use by your choir. 

 Christmas Carol Accompaniments

Christmas Carol Accompaniments, Volume 2

These collections will be an invaluable resource for the Christmas season! They are also a wonderful budget stretcher. With the purchase of these collections, the original purchaser (church, school, or community ensemble) is granted permission to make copies as needed for their choir. The easy accompaniment chords may be played on either handbells or handchimes. The carol melodies may be sung and/or played by an instrument. Sing-along sheets are included, as well as instrumental parts for B-flat and C-treble instruments and C-bass instruments. The accompaniments may be rung with or without keyboard, and a list of harmonically compatible hymnal settings is provided. Suggestions are also included for combing carols into a medley. This flexible collection is ideal for your carol accompaniment needs–whether the melody is sung or played–throughout the holiday season.

The above resources are available on the ChimeWorks website for immediate purchase and digital download

Ring It Now and Ring It Later

As you choose music for Advent and Christmas, consider picking a tune that you might also use later in the year making it appropriate for the liturgical season by merely changing the title.  Allowing this freedom, opens up a new resource to you in strengthening your ensemble.

Mastering a piece that is multi-seasonal helps in a number of ways:

  • If you struggle with rehearsal attendance, this will pare down the time spent on learning notes and allow you and your ringers to focus on musicality.
  • Newer ringers may enjoy the opportunity of playing the piece with more confidence the second time leading to a more worshipful experience.
  • This will benefit your music budget. Who doesn’t love stretching the dollar!

Below are suggestions of titles from ChimeWorks.  All of these titles are written for handbells but are specifically recommended because they work well for handchime ensembles, too.  The titles in bold are as they are published under Handchime Ensembles where they are available for immediate purchase and digital download.

 

Tune:  Puer Nobis

Advent:  On Jordan’s Bank, the Baptist’s Cry

Epiphany:  What Star Is This, With Beams So Bright

Easter:  That Easter Day With Joy Was Bright  (L1)  2 – 3 Octaves  3 – 5 Octaves

 

Tune:  Noël Nouvelet

Christmas:  Sing We Now of Christmas

Easter:  Now The Green Blade Rises

General:  Variations On A French Carol (L2)  2 Octaves with Percussion

 

Tune:  Hyfrydol

General:  Meditation on Hyfrydol  (L3)  3 Octaves

Advent:  Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Easter:  Alleluia! Sing To Jesus

General: Love Divine, All Love Excelling

 

Tune:  Morning Song or Consolation

Advent:  The King Shall Come  (L2)  2 – 3 Octaves  3 – 5 Octaves

Thanksgiving:  Give Thanks To God Who Hears Our Cry

Morning or Thanksgiving:  Awake, Awake To Love And Work

 

Tune:  Prospect

Christmas:  The Hills Are Bare At Bethlehem

Pentecost:  The Lone, Wild Bird  (L3)  3 – 5 Octaves with C instrument

 

Tune:  Duke Street

Ascension:  Jesus Shall Reign (L1)  2 – 3 Octaves  3 – 5 Octaves  2 – 5 Octaves

Easter:  I Know That My Redeemer Lives

General:  Prelude on Duke Street

General (Trust):  Fight The Good Fight

General:  From All That Dwell Below The Skies

 

Tune:  Afton Water

General:  As Rain From The Clouds (L2)  3 – 5 Octaves with optional harp

Christmas:  Away In A Manger

Christmas: All Wrapped-up in One Collection

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and probably the most important season for ringing choirs – Christmas!  Get ready for the holiday with these budget-friendly collections below that work well for handchime or handbell choirs.

Not only do these collections offer a variety of music to carry you throughout Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, they are a great resource for all directors to have available for developing choirs as well as for more experienced groups needing music they can learn quickly.  Starting at Level 1 through Level 2+, these collections will allow you to be ready for Worship or Concert.  All of the resources can be found on the ChimeWorks website and are available for immediate purchase and digital download.

Come and Adore

2 – 3 Octaves, 3 – 5 Octaves

Levels 1 and 1+ This charming collection features easy Advent and Christmas arrangements playable on either handbells or handchimes.  Contents:  Ave Maria; Gentle Mary Laid Her Child (Good King Wenceslas); Go, Tell it on the Mountain; God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen; Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head; Long Ago, Prophets Knew (On This Day Earth Shall Ring); Once in Royal David’s City

 

I heard the Bells on Christmas Day

2 – 3 Octaves, 3 – 5 Octaves

Level 2   I Heard the Bells is a collection of seven settings appropriate for Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and Epiphany including We Gather Together, Prepare the Royal Highway, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Silent Night, Joy to the World, On This Day Earth Shall Ring and We Three Kings.

 

Celebrate the Season

2 – 3 Octaves, 3 – 5 Octaves

Level 2 with optional percussion    Go easy on your music budget with this collection for Advent and Christmas which includes eight of Cathy Moklebust’s most popular arrangements for the season: Away in a Manger; Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus; Infant Holy, Infant Lowly; Rejoice! Rejoice! (Rejoice, Rejoice Believers and Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel); Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow (There’s a Star in the East); Still, Still, Still; ‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime; What Is This Lovely Fragrance?

 

Glad Tidings Ring

3 – 5 Octaves

Levels 2 and 2+   Glad Tidings Ring is a compilation of favorite Advent and Christmas arrangements. This budget-stretching collection features a wonderful variety of seasonal arrangements by six outstanding arrangers: Cynthia Dobrinski; Sandra Eithun; Linda R. Lamb; Kevin McChesney; Anna Laura Page and Margaret R. Tucker.  Titles include:  Earth Shall Ring; He Is Born; Lo! How a Rose; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers and Sussex Carol.

Prepare the Way for Advent!

Leaves are falling and soon snowflakes will be, too.  The time has come to begin preparing for Advent and Christmas.  To help make your Advent music search a little easier, ChimeWorks is pleased to recommend the following pieces for the season which will no doubt bring hope, peace and joy to your worshipping congregation.

All are available for immediate purchase and download from Chimeworks.com

 

The King Shall Come

Level 2 with optional percussion

 2 -3 Octaves, 3 – 5 Octaves

 

On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry

Level 1

2 – 3 Octaves, 3 – 5 Octaves

 

Savior of the Nations, Come

Level 2 with optional percussion

2 – 3 Octaves, 3 – 5 Octaves

 

Light in the Darkness

Level 2+

3 – 5 Octaves

 

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Level 2 with optional flute or violin

3-4 Octaves

Level 2 with optional percussion and keyboard

2- 3 or 5 Octaves

 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Level 2

2 – 3 Octaves

 

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Level 1+

2 Octaves

 

Long Ago, Prophets Knew

Level 1

2 -3 Octaves, 3 – 7 Octaves

 

Come, Thou Almighty King

Level 2+ with optional percussion

2 -3 Octaves, 3 – 6 Octaves

Ringing Thanks – Repertoire for Thanksgiving

Autumn is here and Thanksgiving is seven weeks away. If you haven’t already chosen repertoire for the holiday, ChimeWorks has some great ideas for your ensemble.  The popular tunes below have several settings for beginning to intermediate choirs and feature handchimes or handbells alone to arrangements that are more flexible to include percussion, keyboard or optional instrumental and choir parts.  All of the titles listed below are available for immediate purchase and digital download.  Click the links to view sample pages and listen to a recording upon availability.

The Ash Grove (Let All Things Now Living)

2 Octaves, Level 3

2 – 3 Octaves, Level 1

 

Many and Great

2 – 3 Octaves with Percussion, Level 1

3 – 5 Octaves with Percussion, Level 1

3 – 6 Octaves, Level 2 with Keyboard & Narrator

 

Now Thank We All Our God (Bach)

4 – 6 Octaves, Level 3 with Keyboard, Optional Brass & Optional Choir

 

Now Thank We All Our God

2 – 3 Octaves, Level 1+ with Optional Bb or C Instrument

3 – 5 Octaves, Level 1 + with Optional Bb or C Instrument

 

All Things Bright and Beautiful

2 – 3 Octaves, Level 2

 

Processional on All Things Bright and Beautiful

3 – 5 Octaves, Level 1

 

This Is My Father’s World

2 – 3 Octaves, Level 1+ with Flute

3 – 5 Octaves, Level 1+ with Flute

3 – 5 Octaves, Level 3- with Optional Flute, Organ and Congregation

Adding Life to Music When Ringing

 

We know a being is alive when we check for pulse.  So, it is for music!  Without pulse, music can be dull.

Some think that only music with quicker tempos can be exciting.  This can’t be farther from the truth!  A case in point would be Ravel’s Bolero.  Watch it here.  Yes, it is pulse that brings music to life.  It’s the underlying beats which are strong and weak that add ebb and flow to our sound that makes it so musical, so alive!

We can bring this concept to our ringing ensembles by having them do a couple of things to accent beats.  But before doing so, we have to teach our ringers to feel the music with its stronger and weaker beats so that it is innate.

Teaching about meter initially is a lesson worth the time as it will always remain.  As you introduce different time signatures, be sure to take the time to introduce the stronger and weaker beats.  Having your ringers clap the 4 beats in 4/4 time and give a heavy stomp on beat 1 and a lighter stomp on beat 3 is a great exercise for new musicians.  Follow suit with ¾ time with the stomp only on 1.

Before stressing too many musical points in the handchime or handbell rehearsal, practice the score so that the notes are fairly comfortable.  At that point, the ringers can focus on musical issues rather than struggle with note reading.

One of the easiest ways to bring out the line in a melody is to have your ringers sing it.  Any nonsense syllable like “la” or doo” will be fine if they are unfamiliar with the text.  Your ringers will naturally accent the beats that are important as they sing and it is important that they feel it with their entire body, especially their arms.  The arm motion is the breath support for the chime or bell and will help the melody to be more lyrical.  Encourage the ringers to move in some as they sing stressing the stronger beats.

Pulse is probably more important in the harmonic accompaniment as it carries the melody.  Sometimes, it may be harder to feel.  When rehearsing, separate the melody from the harmony and have those ringing harmony clap when their notes ring, stressing stronger and weaker beats.   Adding a stomp of the foot on the strongest beat will help as well.

Once your ringers are feeling the pulse in the music, there are few things that they can do to bring out the stronger beats.  The obvious one would be a stronger flick of the wrist when ringing.  Plane is important as we ring and holding the instrument higher (between the breast and shoulder) for stronger beats and lower (between the waist and breast) for weaker beats.

These are just a few concepts to consider as you teach your ringers that all beats are not created equal!

Stopped Sounds on Handchimes

 

Because of their design, handchimes do not lend themselves to all of the special ringing techniques as handbells.  Many of the techniques when performed, could be damaging to the handchime itself in the area of the tines which determines the tuning of the instrument.  The damage is done when the chime tube cracks at the base of the tines, changing the length of the tines.  If the vibrating tine’s length is altered in any way, the pitch is distorted permanently.

A tine generally cracks when it is bent from ringing or malleting with too much force or from using the martellato technique.  Larger tines can also bend when their vibrating cycle is interrupted.  The larger the chime, the lower the pitch and the slower the vibrating cycle.  Playing short, repeated notes on bass chimes will weaken the tines.  Shaking on treble handchimes will weaken the tines.  A rule to follow would be:  the larger the chime, the longer the duration of the note to be played.  Bass chimes should be used for a harmonic support to the handchimes above it – C4 on up.

ChimeWorks® has created the chart below as an easy reference when using special ringing techniques with handchimes:

 

The Finger Damp is an acceptable technique in creating a stopped sound on a handchime.  The size of the hand and the handchime will dictate who can employ the technique.  The handchime is rung with the finger already in place therefore, the vibrating cycle is not interrupted.

Finger Damp (TD)

Slide the forefinger to the top area of the handchime and place the finger pad in the center of the tine slot and ring the chime. 

This should result in pitch with little resonance. 

The size of the handchime will determine if more than one finger is needed to properly execute the technique.

 

 

 

 

 

While we would like handchimes to be a full replacement for handbells, it is not possible because of the design and material of the instruments.  We encourage you to embrace the unique qualities of handchimes and use their strengths in choosing repertoire and determining when to substitute them for handbells:

  • A strong fundamental pitch with fewer overtones creates a richer sound quality which is why we love to use them for slow moving harmonies.
  • Chimes are ethereal. Because aluminum is a softer metal, handchimes are more mellow in color.  This is also the cause of handchimes being slower to “speak” than handbells and why slower tempos are recommended.
  • A pure, intense tone is created by handchimes which resonates through more complex tonal sounds making them perfect to solo a melodic line.

 

 

 

Get in Step with Processionals

Get in step and add some interest to your next program by beginning with a ringing processional.  There are plenty of resources available for ensembles of every age and ringing level.

Memorizing isn’t as difficult as it seems as many processionals are based on repeated patterns (ostinati).  The key to successfully programing a processional is giving your ensemble plenty of time to rehearse and memorize before putting their feet into play.  Often, memorization comes naturally with repeated playing – consider using a processional as a rehearsal warm-up and months later, it will be inherent.

Impressive, processionals add a little WOW into a performance adding aural and visual variety.  Consider adding in some non-pitched percussion for more effect and it will also help to keep the group together rhythmically.

Children will jump at the idea of processing while adults may be a little less excited about the idea.  If you do meet some resistance, you may consider having the first processional memorized but rung in place behind the tables.  This will give your ringers the opportunity to connect visually with their audience and welcome them into the performance.

Here are some recommendations from ChimeWorks for you to consider all available for immediate purchase and digital download:

Processional Celebration

Processional Jubilee

Processional on All Things Bright and Beautiful

Processional on Good King Wenceslas

Processional and Joyful Dance (2 – 3 Octaves) or (3 – 5 Octaves)

Six Processionals

Earth Shall Ring (Personent Hodie)

Bell Processional

Fanfare and Alleluia (2 Octaves) (2 -3 Octaves) (3 – 5 Octaves)

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Processional and Bell Chime