Random Ringers handbell ensemble celebrates the season with a different kind of music

  • The Random Ringers women's handbell ensemble is based in Arlington Heights, but members come from all over the North and Northwest suburbs.

    The Random Ringers women's handbell ensemble is based in Arlington Heights, but members come from all over the North and Northwest suburbs. Courtesy of Beth McFarland

  • The Random Ringers women's handbell ensemble has performed holiday concerts at locations around the suburbs for 25 years.

    The Random Ringers women's handbell ensemble has performed holiday concerts at locations around the suburbs for 25 years. Daily Herald File Photo

  • Annemarie Barry, right, and Teri DeClerck play bass bells during the Random Ringers Holiday Concert last year at the Poplar Creek Public Library in Streamwood. More than 100 people listened to the bell ringers perform holiday songs.

    Annemarie Barry, right, and Teri DeClerck play bass bells during the Random Ringers Holiday Concert last year at the Poplar Creek Public Library in Streamwood. More than 100 people listened to the bell ringers perform holiday songs. Daily Herald File Photo, 2017

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 12/12/2018 6:14 AM

They call themselves "ringers" and they come from across the North and Northwest suburbs. Literally, members come from Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Elgin, Lindenhurst, Mundelein, Palatine, Park Ridge, West Dundee and Wilmette.

What draws them to an Arlington Heights church, each and every Monday night: the chance to make music with handbells.

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"I can honestly say that I'm hooked on ringing -- and directing -- handbells," says Beth McFarland of Mundelein, who has directed the ensemble for the last 14 years.

These "Random Ringers" perform throughout the year, and especially during the holidays. Next up for this choir is a performance from 2-3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Poplar Creek Public Library in Streamwood. It comes after three performances last weekend.

Music selections range from traditional carols such as "Silent Night," "Joy to the World," and "Angels We Have Heard on High" to such popular selections such as "We Need a Little Christmas" and "A Marshmallow World."

Members describe the concert as a unique way to get in the holiday spirit. Not only can audience members watch the ringers and try and guess their parts, but they can hear some of their seasonal favorites in a whole new interpretation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We want our audiences to sit back and just listen," McFarland says, "to let go of their concerns and enjoy the moment."

The Random Ringers rehearse every Monday evening during the school year at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights, and they bring a combined 300 years of experience "ringing," McFarland says.

"We come from various backgrounds. Some of us have rung for many years and others just a few years," she says. "The common thread is that we all truly enjoy ringing and want to ring many types of music -- and the challenges that it might bring."

McFarland dates her own interest back to high school when she first was introduced to a five-octave set of bells. She has rung ever since, and now also directs the Heritage Bells ensemble at United Methodist Church of Libertyville.

While handbell choirs perform the melodies of their selection, it might be surprising to learn that the bells are part of the percussion family of instruments.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Whether we're using mallets to achieve a staccato sound, or ringing soft and melodious passages, or having fun with a loud and fast section," McFarland says, "we're able to bring a song to life with these unique techniques."

The Random Ringers dates back 25 years, she adds, and most of the places they play are due to popular demand. Recent engagements include: Luther Village in Arlington Heights, as well as public libraries in Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Mundelein, Niles, Palatine, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg, Streamwood and Vernon Hills.

"It's just fun to bring a piece of music to life and perform it for people," McFarland adds, "while sharing our love for the instrument -- and music -- with others."

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