Bells Festival a Ringing Success

November 13, 2008

By Bill Ballagh
St. Paul's UMC, Point Arena
Bruce Pettit
Bethany UMC, San Francisco

On November 8, 2008 more than 60 handbell ringers from 10 United Methodist Churches joined together under the direction of Dorothy Straks, to make music to our Lord at Lake Merritt UMC in Oakland, California in the fifth annual California-Nevada UM Bells Festival.
Rainy weather did not keep audience members from attending, and at least one celebrity—Retired United Methodist Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly—was in attendance. Concert organizers sent a car and driver to the Lake Park Retirement Home in Oakland, located just a few blocks from the church, to pick up Bishop Kelly and some friends and return them to the retirement home.   
The bishop later commented on the concert, "It was marvelous! This coming together of the many churches for this wonderful sound—for this professional ringing of the bells and the combining of that with the voices [from the Mormon Temple Hill choir of Oakland]! My friends were telling me on the ride home that this was the best concert they had ever attended."
Five mass pieces were played and individual choirs performed solo pieces. One individual—Caroline Harnly of Temple UMC in San Francisco—performed a bell solo, as well. Harnly, who is also director of the bell choir in Half Moon Bay, demonstrated the artful weaving of bells as she performed, "Grazioso" by Arnold Sherman.
Participating bell choirs were from Hillsdale UMC of San Mateo; Community UMC of Half Moon Bay; Foothills UMC of Rescue; St. Paul's UMC of Manteca; First UMC of Watsonville; Bethany UMC of San Francisco; Temple UMC of San Francisco; El Cerrito UMC; UMC of Davis; and a Mendocino County ensemble sponsored by Ukiah UMC. Concert director Dorothy Straks is a deacon of the California-Nevada Annual Conference.
Bruce Pettit, administrative assistant for the Golden Gate District and a member of San Francisco’s Bethany Bell Appeal, was the logistics manager for the concert.
Mark your calendar to watch for the announcements leading up to next year’s bells concert. It will become one of your annual "Want to Attend" events!