Renowned handbell ensemble to play holiday show
The Sonos Handbell Ensemble has been entertaining audiences and introducing the world to the beautiful sounds of handbells since 1990.
Based in Berkeley, Calif., the choir has appeared on some of the largest worldwide stages, including the 1993 World Ice Skating Championships and the United Nation's 50th Anniversary Celebration.
The group will perform a special holiday show at the Taylor-Meade Performing Arts Center at Pacific University in Forest Grove on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m.
"The group kind of started as a community ensemble in the Bay area, it was a group of above average handbell players from local churches who came together," said founding artistic director James Meredith. "We wanted to form an ensemble, and then we went professional. I like to say that the group is made of drop-outs."
After 27 years of shows and the release of countless music albums and videos, Sonos has established a reputation for having some of the best handbell ringers in the country together along with exceptional musicianship.
Although the ensemble still plays local shows, its members mainly play on tour across the country and world. They've performed in Estonia and Finland — as well as Japan, where the group became trapped in an airport one year due to a mix-up with visas.
No international news stories will be following Sonos on the current tour. Besides Forest Grove, the group will be performing at four other locations in Oregon and Washington. The holiday show will feature Johan Kuhnau's "Overture to Messiah," Johann Sebastian Bach's "Magnificat," Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" and other Christmas-themed songs, all played with handbells, percussion, flutes, chimes and clarinet.
"I think the thing that strikes most people about our performances is the intensity of our playing, and also the dynamic sound and velocity that we bring to the table," said Meredith. "Most people have a bell in each hand, sometimes two, and they have to be an instrument. We have to make 10 people sound like one person is playing."
One of the more challenging things about being in a handbell ensemble is to ensure notes are played at the right time. Beyond that, the group must make sure that the music they're playing is rhythmically accurate and flexible.
"We give a lot of energy, a lot of great music, and we get a great response. Not only are we great to listen to, but because of the bells, our performances are a marvel to look at visually," said Meredith. "We also always invite the audience on after the show to check out the bells."
Tickets for the show are $25 for general admission, $22.50 for seniors and $20 for Pacific University faculty, staff and students. They can be purchased at the box office in Rogers Building, 2019 21st Ave., Forest Grove, which is open Monday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m., or by calling 503-352-2918 in advance.