New Isle Bells Composition Honors Father, Benefactor

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Marina Cummiskey/KMXT

Kodiak’s handbell choir will be ringing in the spring with a unique performance this weekend. Isle Bells has been preparing for 2015’s Spring Ring concert for close to two years.

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Isle Bells director Ella Saltonstall participated in a 2013 workshop with David Harris, the current director of the Raleigh Ringers, and ever since, she has been working for an opportunity to bring Harris back to Kodiak. 

“He is, in the handbell world, a world-renowned conductor, for our instrument. He has taken community handbell playing to a new level and is someone who is just able to take our music to different places, just because of his musical background and many years with our instrument.”

With Harris conducting, Isle Bells will be performing an original song, one that has a special meaning to Saltonstall and the Kodiak community.

“So, this concert, we’re premiering a song I had commissioned in memory of my dad, who died twenty-three years ago. The bells, which the choir plays on, were purchased with money that my dad left, so I felt like it was time to write something that honored that legacy. The bells in itself are a legacy where we are able to share music with people, but this song has been on my mind for a while.”

In the fall of 2014, Saltonstall contacted a composer about the possibility of him writing a song for Isle Bells. About six weeks later, Saltonstall received “Kodiak”, an arrangement for handbells describing the island throughout various melodies. 

“I had just given him a brief description of my dad, and emailed him about four links to blogs, and websites that had pictures of Kodiak. He was able to create this entire song just from having all these beautiful images that everyone, that’s been to Kodiak, or visited Kodiak, everyone has collectively put on the internet. It’s been able to benefit his ability to envision what life on Kodiak is.”

With sections of the song like “going out to sea”, and “snow-capped  mountains’, the melody  tells a story about  Kodiak life, and the sights residents see every day. 

The handbell choir’s Spring Ring is taking  place at the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium on Sunday, April 26th, at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the Arts Council office prior to the performance. 

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