Bell ringers to perform at 1st Presbyterian

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Writer O. Henry’s short story of young newlyweds sacrificing their own treasures to buy each other a special Christmas gift will be the centerpiece of a handbell concert this weekend.


Written by Andy Seay, managing director of the Three Rivers Ringers, the Pittsburgh handbell ensemble, will perform “Gift of the Magi” their first concert in Washington County, at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 in First Presbyterian Church 1793, 100 E. Wheeling St., Washington.


Tickets are $5 in advance or at the door. For more information, call 724-225-5415.


“The Gift of the Magi” was written more than 100 years ago, but given today’s economic climate Seay said its message remains relevant.


It took Seay seven months to finish the piece which, like a film score, contains different themes associated with different characters. The story is narrated by Jim Lutz, husband of the ensemble’s artistic director Nancy Lutz.


“Artistically it’s very different than anything you will hear anywhere else,” Seay said.


Five handbell ringers began the Three Rivers Ringers in March 2010.


“We wanted to play a more challenging repertoire that you can’t do in a church service because of time constraints,” explained Seay.


While other cities have community handbell ensembles, Pittsburgh did not.


“We felt there was a void in the artistic scene so we wanted to fill that void,” Seay said.


Members were selected by audition and their first concert was that Christmas. The ensemble concentrates on performances in the spring and at Christmas.


Seay said the ensemble works to perform in areas where its members live as a way of thanking them for their hard work. Linda Boice, of Washington, who serves as minister of music at Center Presbyterian Church, is a member of the 14-member ensemble. Seay said they are always looking for more members and generally hold auditions every two years. They rehearse Sunday nights for three hours.


In addition to the dramatic setting of O. Henry’s classic short story, the ensemble will also perform a variety of Christmas carols and other holiday tunes.


The ringers performed this July at the 220th General Assembly for Presbyterian Church USA in the David L. Lawrence Center. Seay said they were contacted by someone with the planning committee who had heard the ensemble perform.


The ensemble also hosts the Western Pennsylvania Handbell Festival at Robert Morris University in April which is part of their educational outreach.


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