Hand Bells Program at Presbyterian Church of Westfield Entertains, Educates

The Presbyterian Church of Westfield has 61 bells and 3 octaves of chimes.

JOY Lunch attendees sing praises.
JOY Lunch attendees sing praises.

WESTFIELD – The Presbyterian Church of Westfield recently hosted an informative program, “Loving the Bells,” on the history of the hand bell choirs at the church. The Sunday, February 2, 2014 presentation was part of the monthly Sunday JOY (Just over Youth) Lunches that are served mid-day after the 10 a.m. service to people in the congregation who are over 55 years of age.

Longtime member and hand bell ringer Marnie Ainslie provided the program which educated the group with information that traced the roots of the music groups that have performed the bells at PCW.

She explained how bells in general throughout history, have been “tools of communication, art and music.”

Led by PCW Music Director and Organist Ed Alstrom, members of the Hand Bell Choir performed numbers like “Oh for a Thousand Tongues,” and “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People.” Mrs. Ainslie not only spoke to the group, but also arranged a display of scrapbooks and memorabilia from the church’s archives that preserve the history of the bells.

Mrs. Ainslie told the group, “The church currently has 61 bells and 3 octaves of chimes.” To replace the instruments that the church owns today would cost approximately $30,000.

Members displayed various techniques that are used in ringing the bells. Names of people who have supported the musical efforts through the years were cited. Mrs. Ainslie, who has rung bells at the church for 23 years, said that the group rehearses Monday nights for 1 and ½ hours. “If you can count, read music and ever took piano lessons when you were young, you are eligible to join us,” she said in what was her personal ringing endorsement.

Before the last numbers were rung, a “special guest,” appeared. Mr. Alstrom, dressed as Elvis Presley, accompanied the ringers on the piano. Musical members of the JOY lunch audience were invited to circle around the piano to sing a rendition of “Love Me Tender” with words that lauded the bells. The words from the last chorus of the song, “Whether soft or whether loud, you sure fit the bill; for dear Hand Bells we love you and we always will!” rang in the ears of attendees they exited Assembly Hall.   

To learn more about the JOY Lunches or the church which is located at 140 Mountain Avenue, call the office of PCW at 908-233-0301 during business hours or visit the website at www.westfieldpc.org. 


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