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Handbell History

Handbell music originates from the church tower bells in the United Kingdom which has more than 100 years of history. In order to facilitate the arrangement of tower bell music, handbells were created. As an instrument with unique playing techniques, handbell ringing soon became an avant-garde performing arts. A handbell set is a combination of individual bells of different pitch and each bell resembles an enlarged piano key. We can easily associate the tintinnabulation of Handbell with the festive moods of Christmas.

To perform a piece of handbell music, the highly cooperative work of a team of ringers is needed and each individual ringer is of equal importance in the team. Handbell performances provide their audience with not only wonderful music, but also the dazzling experience of witnessing the perfect cooperation among team members. Although there is a group of ringers performing on stage, they act as if they were one instrument. No members of other orchestra or ensemble can experience such satisfaction gained from the cooperative spirit of handbell playing. Therefore, learning to play handbells is more than acquiring and perfecting individual skills. More importantly, ringers have to develop good team spirits. Handbell ringers need to be aware of the roles of their assigned bells in the piece of music performed. An outstanding performance is the result of the perfect coordination of team members’ use of their eyes, brains, hands and ears. As in learning to play other musical instruments, learning to play handbells can cultivate personal accomplishment. At the same time, ringers can develop their patience and willingness to listen to others through cooperative team building. Such traits are valuable in the personal development of children.

Handbell history in Hong Kong

The development of handbells Hong Kong began with the efforts of a Southern Baptist missionary ─ Mr. Ralph Yoars. International Communist Youth League sent Mr. Yoars to Hong Kong for music education and publicity work and he was appointed as an Associate Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University. In the early 1970s, Mr. Yoars bought the first set of three 8 octave Schulmerich handbells into Hong Kong for his teaching at the university. The handbells were also adopted for extra-curricular activities. It can be said that the development of handbell music in Hong Kong began with the Handbell Choir of the Hong Kong Baptist University. The Hong Kong Baptist University and the Hong Kong Institute of Education are the only two tertiary institutions with their own handbell groups in Hong Kong. Gloves Handbell is the first independent amateur handbell performance team. As a result of the Hong Kong Government’s effort in promoting quality education in recent years, many schools receive funding from the Education Bureau to establish their handbell teams. Since its establishment, the Handbell Association of Hong Kong has been actively promoting handbell locally. The result has been a steady growth in the number of newly formed handbell, handchime and belleplate teams among schools, churches and other organization. In 2006, the Handbell Association of Hong Kong organized the first “Hong Kong Handbell Festival” and the School Handbell Competition. The event has served as a platform for exchanges among participants and has in turn helped raise the standard of Hong Kong's handbell performance.