GREENFIELD — It takes time, expertise and dedication, but students and leaders of a local bell choir are happy to sacrifice their free time in order to make music.
In its third year, the Mt. Comfort Elementary Bell Choir comprises more than 20 students from the fourth and fifth grades who practice after school once a week. Students in the bell choir learn warm-up techniques, how to read music and how to play songs under the direction of Erin Flick, who volunteers to lead the group.
The bells were originally purchased by the school corporation in the early 2000s and used when there was an intermediate school, Flick said.
Flick has led a bell choir at Fortville Christian Church for close to 15 years, she said, and when she realized the Mt. Vernon Schools Corp. wasn’t using its bells, she offered to lead a group or class.
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Handling the bells alone has taught students responsibility and respect for the instruments.
The brass bells are kept in red velvet-lined cases, and students must don gloves before picking them up to protect the metal from oils on their skin, Flick said. At the end of practice, students polish the bells before placing them back in their cases.
The bells don’t go home with any of the students because, not only are they delicate, they are expensive to replace — bells cost between $800 and $1,500, depending on the size, Flick said.
Abby Flick, the leader’s daughter, who is in fifth grade, has been in the group since she was a third-grader. She said the after-school bell choir practices have helped her to get ready for joining band next year by teaching her to read music.
Abby Flick isn’t the only student who joined because her family has a musical history.
Erika Noppenberger, a fifth-grader, joined the bell choir because her grandfather was a music teacher, and she thought it might be fun.
At a recent practice, the students were less than a month into learning the song “Simple Gifts,” a Shaker hymn composed by Joseph Brackett in 1848.
Fran Overstreet, a third-grade teacher at Mt. Comfort Elementary who helps teach the bell choir, said the students usually perform at Veterans Day events and a few others as well.
The students performed “Carol of the Bells” at the Mt. Vernon High School Christmas concert, she said.