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Rapid City
South Dakota 

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History of Bells of the Hills
     
  2001 Bells of the Hills organized in the Fall of 2001. The group is comprised of two distinct units–the full ensemble choir and a smaller group of ringers called Bells’ Angels. Utilizing this smaller group allows us to perform in smaller venues and more frequently as it minimizes scheduling difficulties and usually results in less equipment to transport  
       
  2002 The premiere concert, “An American Tribute” was performed on May 19, 2002.  This event marked the beginning of our two scheduled concerts per year–one each Spring and Christmas. On September 11, Bells of the Hills joined the A Cappella Showcase, members of the Sweet Adelines International and the Rapid City Children’s Chorus in the “Sing Out and Ring Out for Peace” concert held at the Memorial Park Bandshell.  
       
  2003 In January of 2003, Bells of the Hills hosted our first workshop featuring a guest clinician, Monica McGowan.  
       
  2004 2004 was a busy year for Bells of the Hills.  The group hosted another workshop with Monica McGowan in September in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (AGEHR). In December we joined the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra in their Christmas program, “A Symphony Christmas Spectacular,” and in addition to our two scheduled seasonal concerts in Rapid City, we traveled to Alliance, Nebraska and performed our Christmas program, “Christmas Mosaic,” under the sponsorship of the Alliance Arts Council.  As a part of the “Christmas Mosaic” concert, Bells of the Hills performed its first commissioned piece, Greensleeves II, arranged by Hart Morris.  
       
  2005 In addition to the Bells of the Hills regular concert series, we were invited to perform with the Dakota Choral Union in their "Salute to Veterans" held on Friday, November 11. Our fall workshop was held with guest clinician Kevin McChesney.  
       
  2006 The first on-site workshop was conducted in March of 2006 at the Cornerstone Bible Institute in Hot Springs. They have a young bell choir with a lot of potential. In June, eleven Bells of the Hills ringers attended the Area VII Festival Conference in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  In total there were nearly 600 ringers attending this four day event. Our fall workshop featured guest clinician Cathy Moklebust.  In November the group performed a concert in Sioux Falls for the South Dakota Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Convention; and also performed in the Dakota Choral Union program “Ringing and Singing Through Time” along with Kantorei.  Another highlight for the year was the opportunity to co-sponsor with First Presbyterian Church to bring the Twin Cities Bronze group to Rapid City to perform.  
       
  2007 2007 brought another opportunity to co-sponsor another group from outside out area, the Westminster Concert Bell Choir. Our fall workshop featured guest clinician Jason Wells. Throughout it's history, Bells of the Hills has worked diligently to incorporate other guest musicians within the concert programming. The 2007 Christmas program was no exception with featured performances by a string quartet as well as flute, percussion and a mezzo-soprano.  
       
  2008 The 2008 Spring Concert debuted our second commissioned piece, Dixieland Swing on What a Friend We Have in Jesus, by Cathy Moklebust.  The piece is enhanced by the addition of percussion, jazz clarinet, and tuba.  Bells of the Hills received the honor of performing as the Showcase Choir at the Area VII Festival Conference in Sioux Falls in June 2008.  Another honor was bestowed on a member of our group when DeAun West, founder and director of Bells of the Hills, was awarded the 2008 Rushmore Honors Award given by the Cultural Affairs Committee of Rapid City.  Recipients are chosen based on their contributions to the arts and culture as benefactors, administrators, educators or artists.  
       
  2009 The announcement of a logo contest to design a new logo better representing who we are and what we do was kicked off at the start of 2009.  In March a workshop was hosted by Bells of the Hills for all area ringers.  The Shrine of Democracy Chorus invited us to play two numbers in their gospel program “There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight.” along with the A Cappella Showcase and the Black Hills Gospel Quartet.  THis year two Christmas concerts were performed - one at the Homestake Opera House in Lead on December 11, and the other in Rapid City on Sunday, December 13.  
       
  2010 2010 marked a significant milestone in the history of Bells of the Hills. As in the past, we performed our two annual concerts. We also had a very successful workshop in October with 55 participants – some coming from over 100 miles away! Classes were led in bass bell techniques, four in hand ringing, weaving, and more. At year end the retirement of our founder and director, DeAun West, was announced. Her replacement, Dr. Tom Vozzella, takes over the director responsibilities in January, 2011. DeAun will continue with the group as assistant director and handbell ringer extraordinaire!  
       
  2011 2011 began under the directorship of Dr. Tom Vozzella as he prepared them for their annual spring concert. After the spring concert, Dr. Vozella needed to step down and the baton was passed once again to DeAun West with help from assistant directors Mina DeWitt and newcomer to Bells of the Hills Michael Rathke. Again there was a very successful fall workshop held at Westminster Presbyterian Church with ringers, both old and new, coming from near and far. At the end of a very successful and well attended winter concert held at First Congregational Church in Rapid City, the appointment of Michael Rathke as the new Conductor and Artistic Director was made by DeAun West, Director Emeritus.  
       
  2012 The 2012 season began under the leadership of new artistic director, Mike Rathke. Bells of the Hills presented it's Spring concert "Going to Extremes" to a packed house at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In July, a small ensemble from the group was invited to ring for an enthusiastic audience at a Faith Temple celebration in honor of Bishop Lorenzo Kelly. Another successful fall workshop was held and offered several new classes to those involved. The winter concert "Christmas Classics" was well received and memorably featured Elizabeth Knowles playing "Wizards in Winter" on electric violin during an exciting concert finale.  
       
  2013 Bells of the Hills joined the Heartland Handbells for a joint concert in Sioux Falls, SD, entitled “East meets West:  South Dakota Style!,” held on April 28, 2013.  Bells of the Hills also performed at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Sioux Falls during their Sunday morning service on April 28.  Bells of the Hills presented its annual spring concert “Prairie Song” on May 12, 2013, in Rapid City, which featured Kathleen Wissinger’s “One Great Spirit,” commissioned for the composer’s niece who lives on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Several Bells of the Hills ringers participated in performing two handbell compositions during a Rapid City Community Thanksgiving service on Nov. 26, 2013.   Bells of the Hills presented its Christmas concert “The Bells of Christmas” on Dec. 8, 2013.  
       
  2014 Bells of the Hills and Heartland Handbells presented their second joint concert “Let’s Dance” in Rapid City on May 4, 2014, which featured Bells of the Hills reprising its commissioned piece “Dixieland Swing on What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by nationally noted composer Cathy Moklebust who is from Brookings, SD.  Longtime Bells of the Hills ringer Diann Lord passed away in July and Bells of the Hills performed two pieces at her memorial service on July 18, 2014.  Bells of the Hills held its fall handbell workshop for area ringers on Nov. 1.  “Snow Business” was the theme for the final concert on the year on Dec. 7, and was presented in memory of Diann Lord.  
       
  2015 Bells of the Hills presented its concert spring concert “Celebrate” on May 3, 2014.  The third in a series of joint concerts by Bells of the Hills and Heartland Handbells was held on May 10, 2014, in Sioux Falls and was entitled “Celebration.”  The December holiday concert “Northern Lights” was held on Dec.6, and featured the piece ”Northern Lights”  by Margaret Tucker who incorporates the Lakota hymn “Many and Great” into her composition.  Margaret (Maggi) Tucker is a native of South Dakota.  Bells of the Hills had a unique opportunity to host a flash mob type of event, but without the practicing, on Dec. 13, at the Rushmore Mall, in which the general public was invited to participate and “Ring Out” with handbells along with Bells of the Hills members and perform holiday music during the Sunday afternoon.  
       
  2016 The fourth joint concert by Bells of the Hills and Heartland Handbells was held in Rapid City, on April 24, and was entitled “Hills and Heartland”.  On June 21, 2016, Bells of the Hills performed in the Memorial Park Bandshell as part of the Rapid City Allied Arts “Make Music and Celebrate the Summer Solstice” series of concerts showcasing area musicians.  Bells of the Hills hosted its fall handbell workshop for area ringers on Saturday, Oct 1.  The December holiday concert was held on Sunday, Dec.4, 2016.  
     
  2017    
     
copyright 2007-2017
Bells of the Hills Inc.