Greater Dallas Handbell Association Festivals

Peggy GraffOur own Fifth Street Bells diligently rehearses every Wednesday evening to prepare for its Sunday performances in Sanctuary worship throughout the year. Under the direction of Ms. Sandy Ritthaler, Fifth Street Bells also rehearsed seven pieces this season in preparation for the Greater Dallas Handbell Association (GDHA) Advanced Festival, which was held last Saturday, February 25, at University Park United Methodist Church in Dallas. Other participating bell choirs at the festival were Highland Park United Methodist — Dallas, Lovers Lane United Methodist — Dallas, Highland Park Presbyterian — Dallas, First United Methodist — Allen, Resurrection Lutheran — Plano, First United Methodist — Coppell, and Trietsch Memorial United Methodist — Flower Mound.

gdha-1At the festival, approximately 120 ringers rehearsed en masse the seven pieces they had all prepared with their respective bell choirs throughout the day with Mr. Hart Morris, guest clinician and conductor. These ringers had an exciting, fun, educational, and inspirational day playing together. The day culminated in a delightful concert featuring the seven pieces, two of which were composed by Mr. Morris. One of those pieces, “Meditation and Praise,” was a commissioned work in honor of the GDHA 2017 Festivals (Intermediate and Advanced) that was accompanied by percussion and timpani.

Members of our Fifth Street Bells always come away from these festivals feeling exhilarated and glad to have invested themselves in something so gratifying. Linda Moore, a veteran member of Fifth Street Bells, says that she likes the opportunity to work with someone who has been directing bell choirs for a while and has a wide experience in the different types of ringing technique. “You also get to be in a large room of bells with choirs larger than ours that have the enormous bass bells,” Linda adds. “It just fills the room with sound and you are able to hear how the music was intended to be played.” Director Sandy Ritthaler describes partaking in the same experience with other ringers from prestigious bell choirs in the DFW area as joyful. “Hart Morris, the clinician, was very responsive to the bell ringers and helped them achieve their best playing,” Sandy recalls.


Members of FUMCFW Fifth Street Bells with Mr. Hart Morris, Clinician/Conductor of the 2017 GDHA Advanced Handbell Festival

I have personally enjoyed being a member of the GDHA Board of Directors for the past three years and have served as Festival Chair for two of those years. Annually, we offer an Intermediate and an Advanced Festival for two consecutive weekends. The GDHA serves to provide information, resources, and services to handbell directors and ringers in the DFW community and church ensembles with workshops, reading sessions, and ringing festivals. We also have a large network of knowledgeable experts to help ringers and directors with all their handbell needs or questions.

Playing handbells takes practice, but it is also fun and rewarding to collaborate with others who share your passion. If you (or someone you know) play handbells and desire to get involved as a ringer with our Fifth Street Bells at FUMCFW, please contact me (

Musically yours,

Peggy Graff,
Organist and Associate Director of Music & Worship Arts


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