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In beautiful harmony

Chimes choir shares inspiration, ethereal sound with community

Created date

January 31st, 2014
In beautiful harmony
In beautiful harmony

Carmen Bayles first experienced the joy of hand bells while visiting her mother-in-law, who was living in a Kansas retirement community and playing in its hand bell choir. Known for her musicality as an amateur pianist and singer, Carmen was invited to sit in with the choir. 

“I found it great fun,” she says. “When I moved to Linden Ponds [in 2006], off and on that was in my mind—that this would be a good activity for this community.”

Soon after moving to the Hingham, Mass., Erickson Living community, Carmen joined the Chapel Choral at Linden Ponds. But not until a number of years later did thought of the hand bell choir occur to Carmen, just as she was walking past the office of Pastoral Ministries Manager Christian Beukman. Carmen mentioned the idea to Beukman, who responded with enthusiasm to make it a reality.

Ultimate in cooperation

The Linden Ponds Echoes Chimes Choir emerged under the auspice of the Interfaith Council, the Linden Ponds organization that oversees its many faith-based groups. 

Of the inspiration for the Echoes Chimes Choir name, Carmen says: “We’ve lived a long time and we’ve known many people and we’ve had many experiences, and all of these experiences echo down to where we are today, something like the vibrations of the chime.”

The choir went with hand chimes, which are similarly played with a movement of the wrist, but are lighter and less expensive than hand bells. 

“It’s a more ethereal sound than hand bells,” says Sarah Hostetter, the group’s new musical director. “It’s kind of a shimmery sound, very pretty, very clean—especially when they all play together.” 

Carmen reiterates the need for coordination among the ringers, who assemble as a group of nine, including Sarah. Each ringer typically plays two chimes, one in each hand, producing up to five notes that only that ringer can play. 

“You can’t do it alone—it’s the ultimate in cooperation,” Carmen says. “We need everybody, and if somebody misses their note then that note is missing from the harmony. We need each other.”

Developing potential

The ringers come with varying levels of experience—from those who still play with outside church choirs, to others who don’t yet read music. Fortunately, the group’s director is an accomplished musician and teacher. 

Carmen and Sarah were regular participants in Linden Ponds’ trips to see the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but they didn’t know each other until they got into a discussion during lunch at Symphony Hall. That was when Carmen discovered that Sarah was the director of music in a church for 20 years, during which she led two hand bell choirs.    

“I love playing; I love music; it’s really what I love most,” Sarah says. 

With Carmen’s persuasion, Sarah joined as leader of the Echoes Chimes Choir last summer. Though she also holds a job as director of music at First Baptist Church of Hingham, Sarah is dedicated to cultivating the talents of the Linden Ponds group in Thursday afternoon rehearsals and occasional performances within the community.

“I think there’s a lot of potential there. I want to get a core group that’s really solid,” Sarah says.

As a conductor, Sarah takes responsibility for explaining the things she asks of the ringers and building confidence, particularly among beginners.  

“She’s very good at leading us, so we’re lucky to have her,” Carmen says. 

The other group members are also patient and helpful with one another, says Helene Lofgren, who joined with her husband Bob. Neither Helene nor Bob could read music. 

“I’ve always loved the bells, which I normally heard during the Christmas season, and they posted a flier on the bulletin board here that they would like to start a chimes group,” Helene says. She signed up.  

Initially, the Lofgrens shared a music book during rehearsals, but now they are matched with more experienced ringers, who help guide them when needed. “They’ve been very supportive. It’s a great group,” Helene says. 

Extending comfort 

The Echoes Chimes Choir recently performed as part of a winter holiday concert alongside the Chapel Choral, and the group hopes to extend its music with more regular performances.  

“Music is usually a comfort to people; it inspires and it invigorates and it’s very important for our lives, and I think that’s true as we age maybe even more so,” Carmen says. “The beauty and the experience of making music is therapeutic; it does do us good. It’s fun and it’s calming and it’s just good for us.” 

The group aspires to share the chimes with other members of the community, including its Intermissions group for people with memory loss. 

“It’s a group activity where we work together, and we hope to extend this experience as we get better and there are more of us to other groups and persons in the community,” says Carmen.