Saturday, February 23, 2008


Handbells at Chelmsford Cathedral


Sound in Brass are one of the leading handbell teams in the UK. Based in Springfield, they have played the Albert Hall and the Purcell Room, and made several recordings.

Last week they came to the Cathedral, appropriately raising funds for the Development Appeal, which includes restoration plans for the church bells.

A large, enthusiastic audience enjoyed a remarkably wide variety of music, beginning with their signature piece – Whistling Rufus – and culminating in a spirited tour de force, Strauss's Radetsky March.

They included just one piece written for this peculiar musical line-up; for the rest, ingenious arrangers had taken favourites and filleted them for the dozen or so players and their 128 bells. A Bach Pastorale worked well, as did a nicely swinging version of the Birth of the Blues. Simple works РWalking in the Air, the Berceuse from Faur̩'s Dolly Suite Рproved effective; among the more ambitious attempts were Midnight in Moscow and Ketelby's evocative Persian Market, complete with cymbal !

As the Dean remarked at the end, there is a strong visual element to this art, the balletic swings of the bells all timed precisely to the beat.

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