“I have always loved the transformative power of handbells. Together, we make beautiful music working in unison and supporting each other. I love that we are able to bring this joy to all musicians of all ages no matter where they are on their musical journey.”Neesa Hart (Programming Director)
In 2006, the Stafford Regional Handbell Society, at the time known as the 2:49 ringers, began to grow in a small, poorly ventilated rehearsal room in a church in Stafford Virigina. Two music teachers and a group of 8 kids in grades 3-5 started making music on a 3 octave set of handbells rescued from a local high school band program. With no mallets, no music, no foam, and, often, no air conditioning, the little group persisted until they played their first concert in April of that year. Because the group was comprised of one set of 3 siblings, one set of 2 siblings, the director's son and two other ringers, there were about 15 people in attendance at the evening's concert.
But from acorns, oaks grow, and through the next few years, Musical Director Phillip Lanier and the Programming Director, Neesa Hart, persisted and continued offering handbell classes for children and teens in the Stafford area. Soon, the group expanded to two ensembles, and eventually three, and then four, and then, parents of students wanted to play and the Society's first adult ensemble was added in the fall of 2009.
With growth came the need for more bells -- both expanded octaves and additional sets to allow multiple groups to rehearse at the same time. All that gear and all those rehearsals were using up church classroom space and one very overstuffed closet. Faced with an ever-expanding need for rehearsal flexibility and storage, the Society moved into its own facility, a permanent rehearsal studio in September of 2011. That studio featured three teaching spaces and a performance theater and became a worthy home for the Society's many handbell offerings and concerts.
7 years later, with 4 adult ensembles and 5 children and youth ensembles, the organization had, once again, outgrown its space. So with another move down the road to our current space with over 8000 square feet of rehearsal space, 700 square feet of storage space, loading docks, a performance room and 5 different rehearsal rooms, it allowed for more growth and, best of all, more ringers. We now rehearse up to 12 ensembles each week, our Bells After School program has grown to over 50 students, and we sponsor concerts and events locally and across the US.
The Society performs in a range of venues and strives to bring truly unique experiences to the community. Through the use of celebrity narrators, themed concerts, creative staging and other theatrical tools, we put musicality and excellence first, but build events that introduce new audiences to the wonderful music of handbells. Our groups are award-winning and nationally recognized for their excellence in performance and musicianship. We are a community of musicians who love sharing our art with our greater community of supporters and friends-not-yet-met.