Handchimes accompany voices beautifully. Even if you own handbells, consider using handchimes with a choral anthem. Their resonant sound will lead to a powerful performance when added to a choral ensemble. Undeniably, there are times when handbells are more appropriate as on Easter Sunday with SATB voices, brass and organ however, there are times when the simplicity of handchimes is the perfect choice.
Because of their design, handchimes produce the purest of tones. Depending on the tube shape (square is best), no other instrument has so few overtones. This is a useful quality when working with younger musicians as children will be able to hear the pitch of the handchimes easily and this will be helpful with intonation. Sometimes, when handbells are used to accompany choral anthems, the overtones present in the handbell sound may confuse the children when finding pitches.
The softer, vibrating aluminum tines of handchimes produces a mellower tone which does not overpower the youngers voices. The tone of the handchimes is ever present but not too bright or obtrusive.
In a two-part or SSA choral setting with handbells, the prominent fundamental pitch may be welcome without the overtones to “ground” the sound, providing a richer foundation.
SATB voices will welcome the sustain of handchimes to their music when singing slower tempos with sustained phrases. The ethereal sound of handchimes will provide musical line and add a rich thread of sound.
If you have a favorite anthem with a simple keyboard part, consider replacing the keyboard setting with handchimes as in this setting of Babylon Canon arranged by Roger Emerson as performed here by the Westminster Choir College Concert Bell Choir.