It took over five hours, but by 2:00 p.m., the train slowly left the station. "God's Train," a handbell composition by Valerie Stephenson served as the final challenge for thirty-one handbell ringers on Saturday, March 2.
The beginning handbell workshop, held at Windsor Park, A Covenant Retirement Community, drew participants not only from the Carol Stream retirement community, but also from six area churches. KC Congdon, a charter member of The Agape Ringers, an acclaimed Chicago area handbell ensemble, conducted the workshop.
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Despite a periodic verbal "oops" and occasional looks of confusion, Congdon's humor and visual analogies kept her audience engaged and even laughing with her throughout the day. When learning how to shake the bell in one hand while ringing quarter notes with the bell in the other hand, she acknowledged it was difficult; kind of like "patting your head and rubbing your tummy." Many heads nodded in agreement.
"She makes it fun and easy to learn," said first-time bell ringer Sara Zies. Zies was one of five participants attending from the Batavia Covenant Church. Two of the Batavians acknowledged they couldn't read music, a fact that added to their challenge.
It turns out that the Batavia church hopes to resurrect a handbell choir after years of silenced bells. Parishioner Holly Miller, a percussionist who serves as its volunteer director, said the workshop was a wonderful opportunity for her to learn the techniques she will need to get the choir off the ground.
Other churches sending representatives to the no-charge event were St. Luke Catholic Church in Carol Stream, Lutheran Church of Our Master in Carol Stream, Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Wheaton, Second Baptist Church in Wheaton, and Wood Dale Community Church.
Most members of the handbell choir of host Windsor Park either participated or helped run the program. They included 102-year-old Cecelia Evans, who first began playing handbells in her nineties. An active centenarian, she also walks nearly every day and volunteers to fold napkins for the dining room daily. Impressive.
Cecelia was also quick to add her own humorous quips to those of Congdon, including one that got the entire room chuckling during a break. Although her comment "(it's) time to get back to work" was likely directed to her friend and new handbell recruit 82-year-old Marilyn Hostetler, her low voice carried and the entire room started laughing. Being that it was four hours into the workshop, they likely thought the same; the source was unexpected.
Joyce Walta, a Windsor Park resident and a member of the performing arts task force of the Windsor Park Center for Lifelong Learning (WPCLL), led planning for the first-time event. A longtime office administrator, she took accolades for a job well done in stride.
"I'm pleased with the participation and how well it was received by everyone," acknowledged Walta. "Even those who've been bell ringers for as much as thirty years said they learned new techniques KC Congdon's expertise and personality made the workshop a huge success.
"However, as to my expertise, I ran events for many years when I was employed," she continued. "A successful event just takes organization."
And perhaps, a room full of little engines that could.
Notes about the Handbell Workshop:
• Planned by the Windsor Park Center for Lifelong Learning, an event-driven, resident-planned organization within Windsor Park, A Covenant Retirement Community in Carol Stream
• Area churches donated the use of their handbells for the day, including: Batavia Covenant Church, Hinsdale Covenant Church and Wheaton Bible Church
More about Windsor Park Center for Lifelong Learning:
The Windsor Park Center for Lifelong learning (WPCLL)presents opportunities for continuing growth and enrichment through education, the creative and performing arts. Three resident-run task forces initiate and plan upcoming events and other opportunities for residents. Many events are opened to the public as well. For more information about WPCLL, contact Jim Steere by calling 630-510-4706 or via email JLSteere@covenantretirement.org.
More about Windsor Park:
Windsor Park is a faith-based retirement community located on 60 scenic acres in the western suburbs of Chicago. It is administered by Covenant Retirement Communities Inc. on behalf of the Board of Benevolence of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Windsor Park offers continuing care retirement including residential independent living apartments and duplex homes, assisted living, memory support and rehab & skilled nursing. Windsor Park allows you to optimize your retirement at any stage of your life in a community offering a haven for nature lovers and easy access to the metropolitan resources of Chicago. More information about Windsor Park can be found online at www.windsorparkillinois.org or by calling 630-510-4700. The executive director is Karen Larson. Jim Steere is the director of community services, and Marissa Samaan is the marketing director.
About KC Congdon:
A charter member of The Agape Ringers, KC Congdon is also the director of Bells in Motion, an auditioned professional group based in Springfield, IL. She serves as a director of the bell choirs at St. Matthew United Church of Christ church in Wheaton and at First Congregational Church of Western Springs as well.
Additionally, she operates a piano studio and serves as a substitute organist for area churches. Ms. Congdon can be reached via email at KCongdon@agaperingers.org.