Back Bay Ringers (BBR) is an advanced, auditioned, handbell ensemble. Under the direction of Griff Gall, BBR has quickly developed a reputation for excellence, regularly performing at Boston-area landmarks such as Faneuil Hall, Symphony Hall, the Boston Children's Museum, and the Prudential Center. Back Bay Ringers has also performed in festivities associated with the Democratic National Convention as well as the Boston Marathon. In 2016, BBR was honored to perform at the Handbell Musicians of America National Seminar in Rochester, NY, and also made its debut with the Boston Pops.
BBR was founded in 2004 as the nation’s first handbell ensemble dedicated to members and friends of the LGBT community, and it remains open and affirming for the membership, board, and community. BBR performs both as a large ensemble and in smaller quartets throughout the year in both public settings and for private bookings, and annually sponsors the Boston Handbell Festival. They have released three recordings: Merry and Bright, Perpetual Motion, and Comfort and Joy.
About Griff Gall, Artistic Director
Griff Gall is the founding artistic director of the Back Bay Ringers. He earned a Bachelor’s of Music degree in music education from Westminster Choir College and completed his Level III Orff Schulwerk training through Boston University while attaining his Masters of Music in Education. He has presented workshops in handbell pedagogy, conducting, and Orff Schulwerk at local and national handbell and music education conferences, and is co-author of Ring, Dance Play, First Experiences with Choirchimes and Orff Schulwerk, published by GIA. Mr. Gall is an elementary music and movement specialist in Danvers, MA.
About Traditional Handbells
What makes a handbell ensemble unique is how the music is produced. A team of musicians playing many individually tuned handbells creates one instrument. Each musician is responsible for up to twelve individual bells. Each bell has an assigned pitch, much like each key on a piano. The bells are typically arranged chromatically on foam-covered tables; these tables protect the bronze surface of the bell, as well as keep the bells from rolling when placed on their sides. The musicians must work together to create a final performance. Musicians use a variety of techniques, including the use of mallets, to create many unique sounds. One handbell cannot create a performance; a cohesive ensemble, however, can perform music with incredible precision and expressive qualities that rival any great musical organization.
About Traditional Bell Ringing in Boston
Boston has a unique connection to the history of handbell ringing. In 1902, Margaret Shurcliff, a resident of Boston’s Beacon Hill, first brought handbells to the United States from England. She was presented with a set of ten handbells in London by Arthur Hughes, the general manager of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, after being the first woman to complete two separate two-and-a-half- hour change ringing peals in one day. Over the years her collection grew, as did her love of ringing. Her Beacon Hill Ringers, the country’s first community handbell ensemble, became well known for their caroling at Christmas time as well as other performances throughout the year. Ms. Shurcliff’s work promoting the art of handbell ringing culminated in the first American handbell festival in 1954. Festivals were designed for the purpose of “spreading new ideas and exchanging music techniques and information.” Margaret was daughter of Dr. Arthur Nichols, whose home on Beacon Hill, constructed in 1804, became the Nichols House Museum.
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