Ringing in the season: New bell choir forms in Newton

Chad Frey Newton Kansan
Sisters Janelle Flory Schrock and Kendra Flory, on the left, have joined Mary Schmidt, Darlene Buller, Katie Gihring, Marcia Brubaker, Vada Snider (director), Kent Dick, Helen Wild, Jenny Switzer, Gregg Dick, Lorraine Morgan and Brad Voran in the newly formed Prairie Bronze Handbell Choir this holiday season. [Submitted]

When a new community bell choir formed in central Kansas, it was more than a chance for sisters Kendra Flory and Janelle Flory Schrock to make music.

“Handbell ringing is an unspoken way for us to connect,” Flory said. “It is something that we don’t even have to talk about. When we ring next to each other, it is an intuition that we have with each other ... It has been a lifelong connection for us.”

Bell ringing has been a part of the sisters' lives since they were children, and in high school they were part of a church choir that helped light the fire for both of them.

“It was one of our connecting points as siblings, and one of our stronger connections,” Flory said.

After high school, bell ringing in a choir setting fell by the wayside for both of them.

The sisters have joined Prairie Bronze, a community choir that formed this fall.

“We are having a lot of fun,” Flory Schrock said. “With handbells it is the more the merrier. There is something really special about ringing in a choir. When you are standing in the midst of all of those bells ringing, you can actually feel the vibrations in your body and that has a very healing quality to it. You have the higher frequencies from the higher bells with the lower ones all the way down to the bass bells. It can be an awe-inspiring experience.”

Flory has directed a bell choir at McPherson Brethren Church for several years and works at McPherson College in admissions. Flory Schrock works at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains.

“She is a director, and she does not get much of a chance to ring herself, and there are several directors who are ringing in Prairie Bronze,” said Flory Schrock. “Often these community chorus give directors a chance to ring.”

The two have performed some duets in recent years but have not been able to be part of choirs together.

“I am glad to have the opportunity to do it again with her,” Flory said. “Ringing in a choir is something that we both enjoy more than anything else.”

Members come from the surrounding area, including McPherson, Wichita, Goessel, as well as Newton.

“Community choirs often play more advanced music than you might find in a church setting, or you might get the chance to ring some secular music,” Flory Schrock said. “Not that we do not enjoy the sacred music, but this gives an opportunity to open up the repertoire.”

The choir has two programs planned — 3 p.m. Dec. 1 as part of the Treble Clef Christmas Vespers at First Presbyterian Church, 900 Columbus, Newton, and 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the annual luminary walk at Dyck Arboretum, 177 W. Hickory, Hesston.

The hope is for more performances and for the choir to live on beyond this holiday season.

“We all started off with the commitment of this first semester to see how it goes,” Schrock said. “I think after these two performances, I think Vada (Snider) will open it up and see how everyone feels.”

Snider, of North Newton, is the woman behind the new choir. She reached out to Flory Schrock with the idea of forming a choir for advanced players to try to tackle advanced music.

The two talked to ringers they knew, and the choir came together. They practice at a Newton church, using the church’s bells when they do.

“I have been toying with this idea of starting a community bell choir to work with some more advanced music,” Snider said. “We started practicing in the middle of September ... It is amazing. The very first rehearsal, I could not believe how well this group sight read. This is going to be a lot of fun."