Which handbells to buy - an opinion|
Petit & Fritzen bells
I have had the pleasure of having some experience with bells from each of the two main manufacturers. I have written this to others in private. I am a little intimated at posting such blatant opinion on the -L, but you asked for it, so here goes.....
My church first started bells when a family donated a 3 octave set of Schulmerich bells in memory of their father. Years later, we added a 4th octave ---also a donation. Then we found out one of our sister churches in the area who had fallen on hard times had 5 octaves of Malmark bells just sitting in closets. We easily received permission to borrow the 5th octave, as the new music minister there was our previous bell director!
Immediately on starting to use the Malmarks, we perceived three problems. One, the 5th octave bass bells had a softer sound. I could tell the minute my bass bell player picked up his lowest Schullie because it cut through and I could hear it much better. Two, the high 5th octave bells were very shrill. [Personally, that is why I think there has been discussion on the -L about preventing ear injury.] The third problem was that my low bass ringer started to experience shoulder and elbow problems.
One and a half years after we borrowed the 5th octave, we got our own brand new 5th octave of Schullies. Now all the low bass notes could be heard, the high notes no longer hurt ears and the bass ringer's health problems disappeared. (The lowest Schulmerich is ONE POUND lighter than the lowest Malmark!) He, the bass ringer said he could tell the difference as soon as he picked the new bells up! BTW- This guy is no wimp. He's got good muscle development in the upper chest -- I ought to know--he's my hubby! He got it from years of cutting and splitting wood because his parents house was heated by a wood furnace. So, I truly amazed that he could tell a difference.
Yes, I think you can tell I prefer the rich tones of Schulmerich bells. ( Interesting note: While at the Directors Seminar in Spokane I got a chance to ring one of the White chapel bells they had on display. Surprised, I remarked to the White Chapel Rep. that it sounded like a Schulmerich bell to me. He said that wasn't surprising as Schulmerich had used White Chapel as their model when they set out to manufacture their bells. ) Even if I didn't prefer their tone I believe the following facts tend to tilt the balance in their favor.
THE BIGGEST BELLS ARE LIGHTER- MAKING THEM EASIER ON THE BODY TO PLAY, AND CARRY!
This, to me is a big factor as bell choirs tend to have a predominance of older people in them. Due, most probably to the fact that their schooling, and child raising duties are over or at least in hand and they have more time are able to make the kind of commitment a bellchoir demands. Even if your bellchoir is fairly young, ---we only get older.
Bellchoirs also tend to be young-- as in children and teens-- the lighter bells make it easier for them to play and carry too.
THE LOWER BELLS CUT THROUGH AND ARE HEARD BETTER.
Every bellchoir has the problem of the bass bells being heard as it is.
THE UPPER BELLS ARE NOT AS SHRILL.
As I've said, we now have 5 octaves and none of my high bell ringers complain of ear problems or the shrillness of the bells. When we used the Malmarks- there were complaints, however, and not just from the high bells. Some of the ringer in the battery (middle) complained that the high Malmarks were hurting their ears.
There was an interesting thread on the -l awhile ago on what people's ideal set, or dream set of bells would be. I believe the consensus finally came down to Schulmerich bells, for the fuller tone, with Malmark clapper mechanism. These were called "hybrid bells." Come to find out, it is possible to have such bells. Malmark makes an adapting kit.
I know Malmark also offers this. But just recently we proved the worth of Schulmerich's guarantee. One of the original 3 octave set, now at least 20 years old developed a crack. I sent the bell off for evaluation by the Schulmerich foundry fully expecting them to say the damage was due to misuse of the bell and we would have to purchase a new one. (It was a F4---$284 to replace.) To my surprise, they said it was their fault and sent me a new bell. Needless to say, I am very impressed with the integrity of this company. It's one thing to say- "lifetime guarantee," quite another to live up to it after 20 years had passed!
Well, enough of my opinions. The fact is that even if, according to my thinking, you choose wrong, the bells will be a source of pleasure and enrich players and listeners lives for years to come. You probably can't go wrong.
First Church of God
16 Feb 1998
Archived original can be found at: RE:: Which bells?--MHO
P & F bells are tuned with the first harmonic (I think) to a minor third. I understand that is the tuning of most tower bells. English and American handbells are tuned to the major 10th.
The series of harmonics (partials, overtones) are quite different and cause weird sounds with massive chords. Single note melodies, some harmonies sound good. The bells, IMHO, sound better outdoors rather than in a closed area.
Needless to say, P & F bells are not compatible with American/English bells. However, we have used them in the balcony as an antiphonal choir, making a delightful echo. Some groups, like Jim Salzwedel's, and I believe the Raleigh Ringers, use them in alternating selections, or a melody over American bell accompaniment for effect.
For a while, P & F bells (new) were not available, but I understand they are advertising again. Don't have a source, but if I find out, I'll drop a note to the list.
Like the lady who said when asked to expound on the gossip she had just related, "I've already told you more than I heard," but if you want more, contact me, and I'll make it sound interesting.
The pamphlet I have which describes the "unique" quality of P&F overtones goes on to say: "This complex series of overtones is what produces that 'ringing sound' - like the best of tower bells - rich in color and wild sonority... [NOT an overstatement by any means]
They recommend: "most effective in large reverberant buildings"