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Where does handbell ringing take place in Canada?

Handbell ringing began in Canada primarily as a recreational and social activity, but it was also introduced in churches to encourage boys' choir members to continue in the church after their voices changed. Handbell ringing is now included in school music education programs, church music worship programs, and as an activity in recreational and seniors centers. Some individual soloists and community ensembles are also active. Performances of handbell ringing can be heard in school concerts, church services, community and performing arts centers, and anywhere else that a community gathers including parks, shopping malls, and online.

Handbells have had wide ranging exposure since their introduction into Canada. In the early 1990s, Resonance Appeal, a community ensemble led by William Hutton, performed twice with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra under the direction of David Hoyt for their Christmas events with special guests such as Maureen Forrester. The Okanagan Handbell Chorus performed in the 2014 and 2017 Christmas concerts with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. A youth handbell choir from St John's York Mills Anglican Church in Toronto played in a television commercial for Swiss Chalet. A handbell group from Prince George, BC, played at Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan at the invitation of the Japanese government. Tracey Boyle from Saskatchewan impressed with her solo handbell performance in the 1987 Miss Canada Pageant. In 2004, ringers in Edmonton took part in the feature film Santa's Slay. Ringers from British Columbia and Manitoba were featured in Christmas Hallmark movies Christmas Bells are Ringing (2018) and Christmas Club (2019) respectively.

Canadian guilds have hosted handbell festivals and other large-scale events at which handbell musicians take part in massed ringing rehearsals and performances, learning workshops, and mini-concerts showcasing soloists, small ensembles, and individual choirs. The Alberta Guild of English Handbell Ringers (ALGEHR) hosted the first handbell festival in Calgary in 1984, attracting 300 ringers from across Canada and the U.S. John S. Nelson organized a festival in conjunction with Expo 86 in Vancouver. In 1998, the first Ringing Link festival was hosted by the Saskatchewan Guild of English Handbell Ringers (SGEHR) followed with conferences held in Edmonton AB (2000), Winnipeg MB (2002), Penticton BC (2005), London ON (2008), Calgary AB (2011), and again in Winnipeg MB (2014). The International Handbell Symposium has been held three times in Canada: in Edmonton (1992), in Toronto (2004), and in Vancouver (2016). Each event attracted approximately 600-800 ringers from around the world.

Provincial Guild events

The Canadian provincial handbell guilds offer a variety of classes, workshops, festivals and conferences to support the learning of their membership. Please refer to the provincial handbell guild webpages and contact info for more information.

British Columbia Guild of English Handbell Ringers (BCGEHR) - www.bcgehr.com
Alberta Guild of English Handbell Ringers (ALGEHR) - www.algehr.org
Manitoba Guild of English Handbell Ringers (MBGEHR) - www.mbgehr.ca
Ontario Guild of English Handbell Ringers (OGEHR) - www.ogehr.ca

Classic Bronze and Classic Copper http://www.classicbronze.org/

These events are organized by the Classic Bronze Handbell Ringing Society based in Edmonton, Alberta. See here for more information.

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