Handbells tuning up for annual festival

Mike Jimenez: PNT Intern

Bells will be ringing in Portales as the holiday season gets under way at the 13th annual Eastern New Mexico Fall Handbell Festival on Saturday.

There will be a closing concert open to the public at 4 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in the church sanctuary located at 200 South Avenue C in Portales. Admission to the concert is free, but there will be an offering taken to help with expenses.

William Wood , organist with the First UMC, said that he began the festival in 1979 as a means of bringing people together for their musical art.

“This is a unique opportunity for most people in the community to experience a different kind of music,” Wood said.

Wood said that he began the festival in 1979 as a means of bringing people together for their musical art.

Wood says that they bring in a guest director and this year it will be Tim Waugh from Bluefield from West Virginia.
Waugh will be conducting the mass ringing festival choir and also play the organ offertory. Waugh is nationally known as a handbell festival conductor and clinician, as well as a composer of handbell and choral music. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in music education from Concord College in West Virginia.

Chris Beaty, an ENMU Department of Music faculty member, will perform on flute with the massed handbell choir. Wood will accompany the massed choir on organ for Beethoven’s “Hymn to Joy.” There will be presentations of some familiar Advent and Christmas music such as “Lo! How a Rose ere Blooming”, “O Worship the King”, “Cantad el Senor.”

Wood said that imagery in the hymn “The Snow Lay on the Ground” is particularly good.

“You can almost imagine the camels moving across the desert, it has such an Eastern effect,” Wood said.

There will be nine handbell choirs represented in this year’s festival and ringers will come from Portales, Clovis, Carlsbad, Eunice, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Levelland, Texas. The ensemble from Portales is “Las Campanas” with members from the First United Methodist Church and the community. There will be two groups from Clovis as well.

The festival steering committee members are Jan Smartnick and Wood from Portales and David Gerig and Brian Uerling of Clovis.

The United Methodist Women of First UMC will be serving lunch for the festival ringers and members of the Portales Kiwanis Club will act as ushers at the concert.