Ring of Fire

Concerto for Handbell Choir (5-7 Octaves) and Orchestra

Kevin McChesney

Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

The handbell choir as a musical endeavor has been in existence only a short time (since the 1950s) in comparison to other musical instruments. Until recently, handbells have been relegated largely to church services and school programs, where their development has been propelled and furthered but where there are by nature limits to the technical and musical possibilities for the instrument. While strides have been made in exploring the musical and expressive potential of handbells, there has been little to no material for the instrument which allows the handbell choir a full range of artistic freedom and virtuosity. This was the starting point for Ring of Fire, Concerto for Handbell Choir and Orchestra.

The vision behind Ring of Fire is to bring the handbell choir fully into the view of a wide concert audience as a musical instrument of much expressive intricacy and power. While it is true that the solo part is virtuoso music and therefore not immediately accessible to the average handbell choir, it is hoped that this piece will inspire higher achievement in handbell ringing and composing, and will offer a wide-ranging audience an appreciation of this versatile instrument. When I met and had the opportunity to work with The Ring of Fire (of Tualatin, OR), Jason Wells, Director, I knew that the time had come to bring the vision to life. This remarkable group is made up of ringers who are not only virtuoso technicians but also truly virtuoso musicians in every way that we have come to recognize such artistry in other musical endeavors. While they are of young age, they are capable of tremendous musical maturity and have an unrelenting professional standard of playing. With such a group in existence, an ensemble that has already ?raised the bar? for the handbell world in many ways, the timing was right for the creation of the present concerto.

The music of the three movements has a central theme of creation. The subtitles ? Heaven and Earth, The Sea, and Fire ? are the four main elements of life and creation common to many mythologies and religions throughout history. Handbells themselves are cast from a form of these elements ? earth and metal, oils and water, air and fire for molding and tempering ? so a connection to the creation theme seemed natural. The main titles are also related to a creation theme, portraying first the rhythm and dance of the fires of creation, second the peace of fire, and finally the explosive energy of fire. It is hoped that these titles also make an elegant tribute to the handbell choir that inspired the completion of this project. I am deeply grateful to Jason Wells and The Ring of Fire for their inspiration, and to all who support and further this artistic endeavor.

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Composition Date 2001
Duration 00:25:10
Orchestration Handbell Choir (5-7 Octaves); 2 2 2 2 - 2 2 0 0; Timp. Hp.(opt. Hp.2) Str.
Premiere 2nd October, 2004. Pikes Peak Ringers, Fort Collins Symphony, Performance Hall, Lincoln Center, Fort Collins, CO.


1. Rhythm of Fire (Heaven and Earth - 7'55")
2. Sea of Fire (The Sea - 10'03")
3. Ring of Fire (Fire - 7'12")