Handbell Ensemble Media Review
A Follow-up on a Memorable Visit to NC
February 8, 2010 - Raleigh, NC:
Ringing Up: Music of Three Worlds: Sonos Handbell Ensemble, James Meredith, Artistic Director, DVD, 64 minutes, close captioned, Dolby Surround Sound, interviews with the artists and director. Available through Amazon.com
Readers of CVNC have had numerous opportunities over the years to see and hear the Raleigh Ringers, an extraordinary handbell organization. While those who took advantage of those opportunities have been exposed to the highest level of artistry, they owe it to themselves to check out another equally splendid ensemble, the Sonos Handbell
The “Three Worlds” involved in this DVD indicate handbell arrangements of music from Europe, Asia and America. This San Francisco ensemble’s Artistic Director (and founder) James Meredith created the arrangements. A North Carolina native, he was educated at UNC-Chapel Hill and Tulane University. Many of the eleven selections presented here were contained in this group’s magnificent November 2008 concert at Vance-Granville Community College in nearby Henderson, NC.
Who knew that Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor could be rendered so excitingly and effectively by handbells? This piece represents the lone European connection. “Echoes of Ancient Japan” comprises three works that transport the hearer/viewer pleasingly to the traditional East.
America is most heavily represented. Edward MacDowell and Charles Ives make their appearances. “Summertime” and “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York” constitute a suite from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Meredith’s “Mountain Habanera” is a comical rendition of the folksong using whistle and musical spoons. (It should be noted that “non-bell” instruments are employed throughout.)
The “weighty” offerings of the program are Meredith’s moving “Kodo Triptych” and the somber “Smirti” (Remembrance of 9/11). These pieces remind one of the stirring and poignant potential of handbells skillfully employed.
A distinguishing feature of Sonos is its inclusion of so many accomplished soloists on various instruments. These artists are used freely in most numbers. Each soloist is identified during the program. Guest cellist Emil Miland is featured in the closing “Remembrance” piece.
This DVD was shot in High Definition video and Surround sound. It dramatizes the extent to which a fine handbell program is a visual as well as an aural treat.