Bells will ring in Wilton tonight, Friday, Dec. 12, as Music on the Hill presents its traditional Christmas concert, “Sounds of the Season,” at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.  The Jubilate Ringers, the group’s 5-octave handbell choir, will perform with the Festival Chorus, joined by Malcolm Dickinson, clarinetist.  The concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

The ringers will premiere a Christmas suite of German carols arranged for handbells by artistic director Ellen Dickinson, who will conduct. The suite incorporates 17 distinct carols and fragments of carols, simultaneously creating a tableau of village life punctuated by some distinct and unexpected bell sounds.

The Festival Chorus will perform selections from the Saint-Saëns Christmas Oratorio as well as traditional carols, both familiar and lesser-known, with Artistic Director David H. Connell conducting.

Pipe organ, played by Ms. Dickinson, clarinet, and favorite carols sung with the audience complete this richly-textured “Sounds of the Season” celebration.

About the Ringers

The Jubilate Ringers is Fairfield County’s only community handbell choir. That sets it apart from the majority of bell choirs in the U.S., roughly 90-percent of which are church-based groups performing primarily in worship services. The Music on the Hill ensemble is comprised of 15 ringers playing 91 handbells, plus chimes.

A smaller group of the Music on the Hill ringers perform as handbell carolers at private gatherings and community events during the holidays. The bell carolers have entertained at the Westport Barnes & Noble store and at the Christmas tree lighting in Easton and make an occasional surprise visit to The Greens in Wilton.

About Handbell Playing

“People who play handbells love to play handbells,” says Carol Bogard, a Wilton resident who plays with the Jubilate Ringers and the bell carolers. “I sing in choral groups, play piano, and played with band, orchestra, and jazz band as a high schooler, but nothing comes close to the experience of ringing bells.”

Bogard began bell ringing at the small private school she attended in Delaware. “I thought, after high school, handbells were over for me,” she says.  When she moved to Wilton and started attending the Wilton Congregational Church, she discovered that they needed players. “The Director of Music at the time, James Kantor, made such a clever appeal for ringers that I couldn’t resist.  He wrote the appeal in the printed bulletin, but he left out the letters “d” and “e,” which made it tricky to read but which made the point for him:  you can’t play the music without all the notes!”  She joined the group, even before joining the church, and found she enjoyed playing as an adult even more than she had as a youth.

“Ringing requires an intensity of focus and concentration that sets it apart,” she says, adding that each ringer’s part – essentially two notes – has absolutely no meaning until it is played with the group.  “It is the ultimate collaborative musical endeavor.”

St. Matthew’s is located at 36 New Canaan Rd..  Tickets are $20 at the door; children are free.