The Montville Shoreline Ringers are back.
Housed in the Stop and Shop Plaza at the 2020 Norwich New London Turnpike, the Handbells Community Choir has taken time off during the pandemic, but is now ready to once again promote the signature bell instrument as an art form legitimate musical. The bells and chimes used by the band require expertise in the gestures and hand movements necessary to create a variety of sounds.
Founded in January 2006 by Jane Nolan, musician and group director, the Shoreline Ringers were originally designed to be a new concert choir to perform outside of supporting Catholic churches. Nolan then transformed the new community choir into a group that would educate others on the art of hand bells and chimes, creating an establishment that would move away from strictly religious areas and surrender in the public eye.
The first 14 and 18 members of the Shoreline Ringers were a mixed group of men and women chosen for their musical education and experience in previous years, all from central and southeastern Connecticut. Each member must also be a professional in the use of hand bells, Nolan wanted a assembled group that took their mission seriously.
âPeople have joined from all over Connecticut with a bell and chime experience,â Nolan said. “In the summer, we had about 18 members who were flexible with different musical genres or instruments.”
The group’s activities have attracted televised concerts such as “Christmas Time In The City” by the Continuo Arts Foundation and the “Joy for the Kids Concert” sponsored by WSFB in Hartford. Eventually, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the group to take a hiatus after their last December performance in 2019.
For an entire year thereafter, the Shoreline Ringers fell silent.
They continued their training at the Stop and Shop Plaza in Montville, their former headquarters in Gales Ferry now only used for emergency meetings.
âCOVID-19 had permanently suspended our mission to educate others about the history of handbells,â said Nolan, âAlthough it prevented any other show from starting, it gave the opportunity to practice and to rehearse for our eventual return to the community. “
They returned in June, invited by The Handbell Musicians of America to perform on July 14 at a national seminar and concert in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. They had another performance at Westerly on June 27th.
âOur intention for this renewal is to pursue our educational goals,â said Nolan, âWe are the second group of bell choirs to be invited to these events during the pandemic; many more have not returned due to fear of the pandemic. “
The Westerly event was noted by the group as the only local public concert this summer.
Viewers can see the group’s open concert in Scottsdale and the seminar in Phoenix through the group’s YouTube page, which also collects recorded events from the past.
âWe aim to continue our mission in the community,â Nolan said. “Shoreline Ringers will remain Connecticut’s premier doorbell group.”
Matthew Rascoe is an intern at The Times and a student at Mitchell College.