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ASU Community Ringers Take Handbell Music in New Direction


A Christmas-time tradition in Jonesboro is taking a slightly different direction, but it still has a familiar ring to it.

Holiday music has a special quality when presented through the artistry of handbells, and one man’s passion has been making that happen for nearly 30 years.

Since 1985, the ASU Ringers have presented unique and inspiring Christmas and Spring Concerts to regional audiences under the direction of its founder and conductor, Dr. Ellis Julien, emeritus professor of music at A-State.

Last year Dr. Julien temporarily relinquished his position in order to enjoy a year of full retirement.  Brian Henkelmann, temporary instructor of piano at ASU and organist at First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro, capably led the ensemble on an interim basis.

After resuming direction of the Ringers this fall, Dr. Julien has reorganized the group as a community bell choir under the auspices of Arkansas State University . . . hence the name change to “ASU Community Ringers.”

The handbell choir will present its annual Christmas concert in Riceland Hall of Fowler Center, 201 Olympic Dr., on Monday, Dec. 3, at 7:30 p.m.

“In addition to ringing these concerts and well over 100 other concerts throughout Arkansas and in 11 Southern and Midwestern states, the Ringers were honored to receive an invitation to perform for the National Convention of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers in 2010,” Dr. Julien said.

In order to emphasize the new community aspect of the ensemble, Dr. Julien sought to change the rehearsal venue from the university campus to a local church that already had a designated handbell rehearsal room.

This would eliminate many hours of setup time and hopefully would encourage broader participation. As an expression of its community outreach ministry Cornerstone United Methodist Church of Jonesboro graciously invited the Ringers to use their facilities, and rehearsals began in September.

This year’s Christmas Concert will feature a wide variety of familiar seasonal music.  Included will be “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” arranged by Douglas Wagner; “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” arranged by Judy Phillips; “Masters in this Hall” and “Carol of the Bells,” arranged by Arnold Sherman; “The Holly and the Ivy,” arranged by Patricia Sanders; “Pat-a-Pan,” arranged by Gregory Pysh; “Still, Still, Still,” arranged by Cathy Moklebust; and “Ding, Dong, Merrily on High” and “A la Nanita Nana,” arranged by Fred Gramann.

Members of the choir include: Rebecca Bleakly of Rector, Mylie Brown of Jonesboro, Amy Dennis of Hardy, Dr. David Gilmore of Jonesboro, Dr. Diane Gilmore of Jonesboro, Dawn Gregory of Walnut Ridge, Ashley Hall of Jonesboro, Jennifer Hall of Tyronza, Karon Henick of Harrisburg, Ben Light of Jonesboro, Kathy Proctor of Jonesboro, Brenda Rupard of Harrisburg, Tommy Russell of Jonesboro, and U Yin Tan of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Current membership includes nine former members of the ASU Ringers plus five new members from Jonesboro and the surrounding area. Rehearsals are on Thursday evenings from 7 until 9, and new ringers will be welcomed to join in January.  Former bell ringing experience is not essential, but the ability to read music is important.

General admission to the concert is $6 and tickets are available through the ASU Box Office or they may be purchased at the door.

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