Easton Resident Part of Blazing Bell Choir
“I love the sound. It’s a beautiful, full ring that gives me goose bumps,” says Bridgewater resident Kate Barlow of one of her most unexpected passions at Chase Collegiate School. She is among a group of six seniors that comprise the Blazing Bells, a handbell choir that has performed at the Connecticut Governor’s House as well as at the Bells of Boston Festival. “I love the way the sound lingers and gets stuck in my head.
Handbell ringing has been a long-standing tradition at Chase. Led by Lower School Music Teacher and Handbell Choir Director, Dayna Drake, the 14-person group practices 3 days a 6-day rotation cycle for 45 minutes and performs regularly at the school as well as in the Greater Waterbury community.
Fellow senior Michael Leszczynski of Easton, who plans to major in industrial engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, signed up for the choir for a “break” away from the rigor of his academic schedule. “Needless to say, it has truly become so much more.” Leszczynski was a guitar player before he came to the handbells.
“I will say that handbells are instruments entirely unique from any other. Where on most instruments you can play a full range of notes rather conveniently, one person can only handle so many handbells.”
Though united through the love of the bells’ sound, each of the 6 seniors has a different reason for joining the group. Alysa Longo of Wolcott, who will be studying engineering at Northeastern University next year, says she joined the
Blazing Bells after hearing the group play around campus. “I think the sound of the handbells is very unique, and there's so many different ways to play them, and manipulate the sound.
For Woodbury resident Jacqui Hannon, a stellar athlete and who will be attending Boston College in the fall, the handbells were her foray into an unexpected love for music. One of the oldest-standing members of the group, Hannon joined the Blazing Bells in the sixth grade, because she felt she “wasn´t good at anything else to do with music” and she needed to fulfill her Middle School performing arts elective. “It turned out I really enjoyed the bells, and I continued to do it, by choice, all throughout upper school.”
The Blazing Bells, ultimately, is about spreading good cheer through music, says Leszczynski. “The most unique aspect of the Blazing Bells,” he says, “is the broad scope of an audience we are privileged to touch each year. Whether it is spreading holiday cheer to residents of local nursing homes or delighting the members of the Connecticut Senate in chambers, our group never seems to disappoint.”
“Plus we get to play all sorts of "hip" music,” adds Longo, “like the Pirates of the Caribbean theme and Lady Gaga!”