RALEIGH, N.C. — The sound of handbells is synonymous with the holiday season, and one internationally acclaimed handbell group is based in the Tar Heel State.
What You Need To Know
The Raleigh Ringers were founded in 1990 and are an internationally acclaimed handbell choir
The group’s 17 members aren’t professionally trained musicians and essentially volunteer their time
They preform year-round and hold auditions every January
The Raleigh Ringers have been around for more than 30 years and, until recently, the pandemic prevented them from putting on their usual shows.
Kristin Murphy has been with the Raleigh Ringers for seven years.
“I’ve been ringing handbells for ages probably since I was 8 or 9 years old,” Murphy said.
Murphy didn’t live close by when she first joined the group.
“For two and a half years I drove from Virginia Beach to Raleigh for rehearsals every week, joined the group for concerts and tours,” Murphy said.
She’s a North Carolina resident now and makes the hour and a half commute from Kernersville.
“The drive is definitely worth it. I think if I were not a part of this group I would not be playing handbells at all,” Murphy said.
She describes the opportunity to play with the Raleigh Ringers as a bucket list item.
“In the handbell community, this group has a reputation that precedes itself. It’s kind of one of the premier community groups,” Murphy said.
David Harris, the group’s music director, helped create the Raleigh Ringers back in 1990.
“The instruments we have are somewhat unique. We have seven different kinds of bells. Most churches or other handbell choirs that are based in schools and so forth have one set of bells,” Harris said.
“We do a lot of touring on the East Coast on weekends. Generally once a year we do a longer tour. Folks have invited us as far as the West Coast, and we’ve done a couple trips to Europe and to Canada. We’ve covered 39 states and the District of Columbia over the years, so we’ve covered quite a bit of territory,” Harris said.
The group’s 17 members aren’t professionally trained musicians.
“There are a lot of us in this group who are not musicians by training, and I think that’s a very unique quality for this group. I in particular am a pharmacist. I’m the medication safety officer for UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill,” Murphy said.
They all have different day jobs and volunteer their time to practice and perform across the country, even internationally.
“We are not professional in the sense that we receive any sort of salary or compensation monetarily. It’s the dedication and the audiences and the musical satisfaction that we get from performing that I think is worth the time and dedication that we put into it,” Murphy said.
The pandemic prevented them from preforming for 22 months and, for Murphy, that time away made her realize how important this really is to her.
NEW TONIGHT: An internationally acclaimed handbell choir in Raleigh?! 🔔 I never would’ve thought 🤯 Tune in to @SpecNews1RDU at 5 PM to see how the Raleigh Ringers are making a comeback after not being able to preform for almost two years due to COVID pic.twitter.com/pepsBkzb4S
— Kyleigh Panetta (@KyleighPanetta) December 13, 2021
“I felt that there was a piece that was missing. I had my job, and I trained for a half marathon, and I looked for other things that tried to fill that gap, but it wasn’t really the same. Being able to come back and ring again starting in July and August kind of balanced that out again,” Murphy said.
“To hear people come up afterwards and say that they were inspired or they were touched or a particular song had meaning to them and they just went away being entertained. The fact that we reach so many folks in an audience is really what keeps me doing this,” Harris said.
The Raleigh Ringers perform year-round, but their final holiday show in Raleigh was Monday.
As for joining the group, they hold auditions every January.