Hot Springs is a city in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.  It’s known for naturally heated springs, many of them in Hot Springs National Park on the northside of town.  Bathhouse Row has 8 bathhouses from the 19th and 20th centuries.  These include Buckstaff Baths, with thermal baths.  The elaborate, stained-glass-and-marble Fordyce Bathhouse has a lobby fountain and houses the park’s visitors center and museum.  Today’s visitors can also visit Oaklawn Horse Track that is operating from December through May along with a Casino and Hotel.  There are three local lakes, Lake Catherine, Lake Hamilton and Ouachita Lake provide year-round sport fishing and recreation.  Hot Springs is also known for great dining, art and historic museums.

And on a beautiful early spring day in Arkansas where temperatures reaching into the mid-70s, the 40th Annual state handbell festival gathered in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Eighty-three handbell ringers from across the state gathered at Hot Springs First United Methodist Church on March 5th to celebrate the art of handbell ringing.  With excited anticipation, we welcomed Dave Harris, conductor of the Rayleigh Ringers, as our clinician.

Dave Harris was an outstanding clinician whose patient but firm, and sometimes humorous direction quickly brought the best out of our ringers.  We were truly blessed to have Dave agree to be clinician.  Dave sent virtual instruction videos that were used in our Summer Seminar in the fall of 2021.  Despite the worries of the Covid-19 epidemic, approximately 40 brave souls gathered to sight-read festival music and renew friendships.  This was an opportunity to plant seeds for a successful state festival.

Under the exceptional guidance of Mr. Harris, we polished our repertoire and finished with public concert late in the afternoon with approximately 50 people in attendance.

.  The repertoire included:

  • Rejoice! He is Risen!  (Rejoice in the Spirit) / Moklebust
  • Meditation on Beautiful Savior / arr. Moklebust
  • Passacaglia in C Minor / Gramann
  • Acclamation in G minor / Thompson
  • Gloria Hodie / McChesney

It was fantastic festival in which everyone in attendance had a wonderful time.  We had 6 new choirs in attendance although there were a few of our regular choirs who were unable to attend and were missed greatly.

The Arkansas handbell world lost a long-time champion for handbells with the recent passing of Evy Lamb.  The state board has commissioned Sondra Tucker to compose a handbell piece in Evy’s honor.  This commissioned piece will be included in the repertoire of the 2023 festival.

It was announced that the 41st Ringing the Natural State Festival will be held on last Saturday of February 2023 at Calvary Baptist Church in North Little Rock and Robert Avant of Baylor University will be our clinician.

~ Scott Wilson, Arkansas State Chair