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Bells will be ringing, and concert-goers singing, as the Christmas season is ushered in once again by the Klamath Joyful Ringers Bell Choir at their annual Christmas Bells concert Saturday.

Held at First Presbyterian Church, the concert begins at 7 p.m., and will feature many recognizable classic and contemporary Christmas songs. The concert is free, but donations will be gladly accepted to help defray expenses associated with the choir’s continued operation, maintenance of equipment, and purchase of sheet music.

The group, currently comprised of nine members, performs songs played entirely with bells of different size that offer different pitch and timbre. For a few selections the group will be accompanied with piano and flute. At certain points the audience will be strongly encouraged to sing-along with the bells, serving as an impromptu choir to accompany the ringers.

The concert marks the sixth year that the group has performed a Christmas concert, after the bell choir was resurrected from the ashes of a long-standing previous bell choir in the Klamath Falls community that was discontinued.

Choir’s director

The group had been led by Steve Mitchell, who also served as director of the Klamath Symphony Orchestra, but Mitchell’s retirement earlier in the year has left a void in direction for both the bell choir and orchestra. Rather than declare an official director, the bell choir is performing as a collective of musicians without a leader.

Unofficially, however, the choir leans heavily on Kay Wada, the newest member in the Joyful Ringers — a classically-trained violinist who serves as the equivalent of a drummer in a rock band setting the initial 1-2-3-4 cadence to begin each composition. According to Joyful Ringers member Marty Weissinger, they may declare an official director again at some point, but rehearsals for this concert have worked fine without the need of someone to conduct.

“Kay (Wada) gathered us all together and asked us what we wanted to do, and we all said we wanted to play,” said Weissinger. “She (Wada) refuses to be known as director, but she is the one holding us all together. As a musician, she is helping immensely and playing four bells at a time herself.”

Practice, practice

Rehearsals began in September for the Christmas concert, and the group will resume rehearsals in January for their annual spring concert. While the concerts are all held at First Presbyterian Church, no current group member is part of that denomination. The church owns a set of pristine concert bells and the proper tables and storage equipment for handling them, so it becomes a matter of simple logistics to hold the concerts there.

“It makes it easy to keep everything on-site there, but it isn’t a concert for or by a specific denomination,” added Weissinger. “The bells belong to First Presbyterian, and we take great care of them.”

According to Weissinger, the bell choir first began when Linda Maurean bought a set of bells and began performing for various churches in the area. When Maurean started at First Presbyterian, the church agreed to purchase its own set, and thereafter has been the home of the Joyful Ringers in its various forms. This performance will mark over 15 years that the Joyful Ringers have performed in connection with the annual Snowflake Festival.

First Presbyterian Church is at 601 Pine St.

email kliedtke@heraldandnews.com @kliedtkeHN

Staff reporter for the Herald and News.