Brock Willard editor in chief
The Bells of the Balkans presented their fall concert featuring both original music and a handful of jazz and musical theatre arrangements.
On Sept. 3 at 3 pm in the Linda and Lee Scott Performance Hall of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, the Bells of the Balkans played their concert. The full program consisted of full handbell choir pieces including “Dance of the Western Sky” by Tammy Waldrop, “Singing in the Rain” from the movie of the same name arranged by Brian Tervo, “I Can Sing A Rainbow” from “The Muppets” arranged by John Coates, “Oh Susanna” by Stephen Foster arranged by Chris Smith, an arrangement of the Americana tune “Simple Gifts” by Hall and McChesney, and a medley of Leroy Anderson tunes arranged by Douglas E. Waggoner. In addition to full group performances, the concert featured a handbell solo by Terry Cox accompanied by Virginia Darling at the piano, “Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppets,” as well as a piano duet featuring the music of Irving Berlin. The group rehearses weekly under the direction of retired music educator and handbell enthusiast Janis Saket.
“I do things I love, because I know that the group will love them too,” Saket said. “I listen to a lot of songs in various places and on YouTube and I only program music I enjoy. If I don’t enjoy it, or I don’t think it’s exciting, how can I expect them to like it?”
The Bells of the Balkans includes members from a variety of different musical skill levels, backgrounds, and lifestyles. Some members come from handbell choirs at various churches in Pittsburg. Others are retired music educators themselves. Others still know Saket through the music advocacy group, the Treble Clef Club.
“My favorite thing about directing Bells of the Balkans is the people,” Saket said. “I just love that aspect of it. I love that we have all different skill levels. Some can read music quite well and others can’t and that’s okay. That’s the beauty of it. Anyone can do the things we are doing. That’s the real joy, bringing people together.”
The Bells of the Balkans are sometimes called the “House Band” by members of the staff at the Bicknell Center, because the Bells rehearse each Monday in the rehearsal hall just off the main stage.
Saket also mentioned that the relationship between the Bells and the university began from a chance encounter with former PSU President Steve Scott.
“We’ve been really fortunate that many things came together at the right time for this relationship to occur,” Saket said. “We were giving a concert in the Timmons Chapel and it admittedly was a little cramped for us and I got to chat with Dr. Scott while he was there. He mentioned the Bicknell Center which was still under construction at the time and gave me Joe Firman’s number. It’s been a wonderful partnership thus far, and I hope we can continue.”
Saket also said to “stay tuned” for upcoming concerts by and featuring the Bells of the Balkans.