Through the Season with Handbells and Flutes

An important part of our Christmas tradition at Christ Church is the annual Christmas Handbell concert, which for several years has also included our very fine Christ Church Flute Choir. This array of ringers and tooters, altogether numbering around forty, do a magnificent job each year of starting our seasonal musical celebrations. Bells will be conducted by André Lash, while the Flute Choir will be led by Nancy Thurston.

Why does the use of bells at Christmas have such an appeal? Bells used in celebration or for other cultural purposes are millennia old: the tinkling of bells on Aaron’s robe is mentioned in the Bible, and primitive bells have been found within the context of the ancient Yangshao culture in China, which dates back at least to 3,000 B.C. Bell towers began to appear during the Middle Ages, and as civilization progressed, at least in Christianized nations, bells came increasingly to be used as a means of communicating an event of great joy such as a victory at war, or a sad moment in the life of the community such as the death of one of its members. After handbells came into general use in the United States during the middle 20th century, they saw more and more usage as part of special celebrations, and today handbell catalogues often have a large part of their pages given over to music for the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany liturgical cycle.

Flutes on the other hand have the distinction of being, in their basic form, one of the simplest instruments known to mankind: producing the basic sound of a flute is akin to blowing across the opening in the top of a soda can! Perhaps this is what gives the flute’s gentle, pure sound such appeal. Yet with today’s sophisticated fingering systems, the flute is capable of virtuoso passages which rival those of any other instrument, and fortunately for the flute, today we have flutes of many pitch ranges: Treble, Alto, Bass, etc.—there is a reason why we refer to the ensemble as a flute choir!

As we gather at 3pm on this coming Sunday, December 7, you will hear arrangements of Advent and Christmas pieces old and new; you will have the opportunity to sing as a congregation; and best of all, you will be led through the liturgical cycle with carols and hymns from each of its component parts: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. We will be reminded of God’s great gift to us through Jesus the Christ and have our hearts tuned to celebrate His coming. And oh yes, we will have a little fun surprise for everyone at the end.

So what can you do? Though there will be a freewill offering following the concert, the concert itself is completely free and open to the public, so invite your friends, neighbors, spouses, and other family members to come and be a part of this great time of celebration.

André Lash