Concordia Ringers stand at the front of church ringing
The Concordia Ringers play at the April 3 St. John Lutheran Church services in Seward. Pictured from left to right are Sadie Henson, Madee Hall, Brianna Bianco, Sierra Geistfeld, Timothy Mars, Stephanie Mashuga, Maria Burris and Abigail Bimler.

Bells are ringing, are you listening? The Concordia Handbell Choir and Concordia Ringers each played at the morning services on April 3 at St. John Lutheran Church in Seward. 

Concordia Handbell choir plays Fantasy on Restoration by Brian Childers:

 Concordia Ringers plays Bryn Calfaria Arranged by Donald Noller:

The Concordia Handbell Choir and Concordia Ringers are two audition-only handbell choirs at Concordia University in Seward, which has the largest collegiate handbell choir. In handbell choirs, multiple members all ring different tones on different bells to create one sound together.

“We’re all a part of one instrument,” said Renata Peperkorn, a junior double majoring in K-12 music education and church music at Concordia from Rocklin, California. “Every single person is equally valuable and if one person is missing, it kind of messes up the whole piece.”

Peperkorn joined the handbell choir with no previous experience. Some students were in past choirs and were excited for the more advanced collegiate choir while others rang for the first time for the group. Some students have degrees in music and choir direction while others are future educators or scientists.

“I really enjoy it, that’s for sure,” said Thomas Schulteis, a sophomore church music major from Parker, Colorado. Schulteis started playing handbells in seventh grade and would love to direct music at a church like St. John Lutheran Church. He is a part of the Concordia Handbell Choir, which is the more advanced of the two choirs.

Jessica Kite, the director of both choirs, is an adjunct professor at Concordia and has directed the choir for 16 years. Since she started directing the choir, the program has grown tremendously. It now has two audition choirs, seven octaves of bells, three octaves of hand chimes, one octave of bass chimes and two octaves each of Cymbells and Silver Melody Bells. Donors have helped the choir with funding for equipment that brings them more on par with the best bell choirs in the nation.

Concordia and Hastings College are the only colleges in Nebraska with collegiate handbell choirs. And Concordia has two audition choirs, making it the largest collegiate choir in Nebraska. Many churches and communities have handbell choirs across Nebraska.

Peperkorn said that people enjoy handbell choirs, particularly at churches.

“It is different than most musical groups they’re used to hearing,” Peperkorn said. “It’s very joyful music and that’s very fun to listen to.”

The two groups practice twice a week, play for chapel services on campus, worship services off campus, have their own concerts and participate in workshops. 125 ringers went to a recent handbell choir workshop held in Lincoln, including the students at Concordia.

Kite said the choirs are popular across Nebraska and are something that people from all different generations participate in.

“It’s an unusual way to play something because you really have to play together,” said Kite.

Senior Journalism major from Elgin, Nebraska. Minoring in agricultural communications and currently interning at Vivayic.