The strikepoint is the place on a handbell which produces the purest sound and truest pitch. Strikepoint is also the name of one of the world’s top handbell ensembles and they are coming to Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Saturday, June 19 at 7pm.
The 11-member Strikepoint group is based at First United Methodist Church in Duluth and headed by Bill Alexander, a nationally-known clinician and conductor. He started the group in 1984.
Alexander: I was conducting all the groups at First United Methodist Church in Duluth and it was becoming really obvious that it was a lot more fun to play than to conduct, so I created a group where I got to play and wouldn’t have a conductor. So, from there we went to a local handbell festival and had a great time and decided to keep the group together and within a couple years we were touring to Japan and attending a lot of other events and doing lots of concerts. The rest is just sort of history, I guess. We’ve been all over the place.
In order to range over the musical scale each performer needs to play more than one bell – at a time.
Alexander: Well, they’re pretty accomplished musicians, some of them because of handbells and how much time they’ve put in and some of them from other fields. It’s mostly just the rehearsal and the time. You can start off as a beginning ringer with one or two bells and you just sort of expand from there. As you get proficient doing that, put another bell in front of you and it doesn’t take long before you’re able to handle everything in front of you. You’ve got some people up in the little bells that actually at some points in the music will have to hold three bells in each hand at the same time. For the number of bells we play, it’s a fairly small group. Other community professional groups and even some really good church groups that have six or seven octaves of bells will have up to sixteen, seventeen people playing the same numbers.
Alexander says their repertoire is varied.
Alexander: We try to play as much of every kind of music as we can. We’ve got sacred and secular. We have novelty type pieces, we have classical pieces, we have jazz pieces; anything that we think that we can play on bells and will sound good, we’ll try to play.
Handbell ringing is not new to Bethlehem Lutheran. According to Pastor Mark Ditmmanson they’ve had an ensemble of their own for years.
Ditmanson: It started actually back, they had their very first dedicatory service, on June 28, 1987. At that time, it was under the direction of Gloria Lampel and Sherry Lindskog, and over the years they added various octaves. Right now, the bell choir is under the direction of Karina Roth, and they play once a month at our church services and the bells get used for other festivals as well, and we need to add that the lilting sound of bells on top of pipe organ or piano or choir pieces, they’re really quite a versatile musical instrument.
Strikepoint will perform at Bethlehem Lutheran in Grand Marais on Saturday, June 19 at 7pm.