“Ding dong ding dong/That is their song
With joyful ring/All caroling.
One seems to hear/Words of good cheer
From everywhere/Filling the air.
- Carol of the Bells
That joyful sound will be coming to Port Lavaca once again thanks to the Bronze Mariners of Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic School.
“I tried the eighth graders bell choir and ended up liking it,” said Martin Sowa, an OLG student and bell ringer. “It’s basically a mind game.”
The bell choir is preparing for its annual foray into the community ringing in Christmas cheer across the city. They will be joined by the OLG choir.
“I thought it would be fun,” said Calli Brown on why she joined the bell choir. “Some of the songs are really hard but we get them. It’s the teamwork and stuff that is the best part.”
The bell choir will perform starting today. The Eighth Grade Quartet will perform today, Dec. 12, at 10 a.m. at the Heritage Center.
The Seventh Grade choir will join with the eighth graders for a performance at 10 a.m. Thursday at First National Bank.
Both choirs will perform on Dec. 18 at 10:30 a.m. at Port Lavaca Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Medical Center and at the OLG Christmas Pageant on Dec. 20 with an encore performance for the general public at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 21.
Calhoun High School freshman Kristal Guerrero used to perform in the Bell Choir. “I do miss it. I liked the creativity and how everyone put their spin on everything,” she said.
She and Joseline Marmolejo, also a CHS freshman, were at OLG Saturday to help with the bell choir practice.
“I liked how all we’d all work as a group and if someone got stuck, we encourage them to do better.
In addition to the set performances, OLG Principal Theresa Dent said the quartet would be popping into various businesses to provide a little Christmas cheer.’
HISTORY OF THE
By Theresa Dent
Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic School’s bell choir program was started in 2000 when the music director asked for a donation from Mrs. Louis Bauer to start a hand chimes choir. Mrs. Bauer had a bigger vision than that and donated enough funding to purchase two full octaves (25 bells) of hand bells and another octave of hand chimes to supplement it.
Thus the Bronze Mariners Bell Choir was born and over the past 18 years has performed for Christmas pageants, music competitions, and special community events providing unique renditions of familiar songs as only bells can. From Christmas carols to Harry Potter themes, the bells choir has stepped up to the challenge to perform these songs with some performers being responsible for up to five bells in one song. With only two hands, this is a real challenge.
As an elective program, students must choose to be in the bell choir and enter into a contract with the group. Because each bell is worth hundreds of dollars, there are strict rules the members must follow pertaining to where to place them, what to wear when playing them, and how to maintain them.
It takes a great deal of physical coordination to play the bells with many students going home with bruises on their shoulders and blisters under their gloves.
It also takes mental coordination to play the bells as each student plays a critical part in a song and the rule “Better never than late” is a mantra for each member. Students also know the importance of not missing a practice. This means not only choosing bell choir over other after school activities, but also keeping their grades up so they qualify to play. Thus many students may elect to be in bell choir, but not all will be able to fulfill their contract and stay in bell choir because of other activities in their busy lives.
Even with its strict rules and the director’s high expectations for each member, being a part of the Bronze Mariners is very popular for the OLG Middle School students, and two to three separate choirs are formed each year to allow those who are able and willing to put forth the effort the opportunity to play in a group. The groups are given names to distinguish them from each other such as the Swingers, Ringers and even the Ding-a-Lings (usually a smaller quartet of top musicians).
Bell rehearsals are after school and during the busy Christmas season, these students will go home in the dark after a long practice in preparation to perform carols around the community.
After the Christmas performances, the Sixth Grade Ringers will begin rehearsal in the spring as all the bell choirs prepare for solo and ensemble competition in May.
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“It’s a fun experience,” said Nissa Pham.