Suffolk’s own bunch of jingling bells

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Just as the Riddick family did after their home was built back in the 1840s, Suffolkians will be able to enjoy the music of handbells at 2 p.m. on Dec. 4 at Riddick’s Folly during the Handbell Choir of First Baptist Church’s free concert. The event will kick off the Suffolk Nansemond Historical Society’s 28th Annual Candlelight Tour.

&uot;Handbells were introduced to America back in the 1840s, about the same time that the Riddick home was built,&uot; said choir (and Folly board) member Sean Bilby during a break in practice. &uot;It was mostly vaudeville acts before the days of radio. I don’t know if the Riddick family ever played handbells, but groups playing them would come through Suffolk. The purpose of Riddick’s folly is cultural, as well as historical and educational.&uot;

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The 13-member, five-octave choir, which has been entertaining the church with weekly concerts for the past two years, will play such holiday tunes as &uot;We Wish You a Merry Christmas,&uot; &uot;Away in a Manger,&uot; and, of course, &uot;Jingle Bells.&uot;

&uot;There’s a uniqueness about it,&uot; Ruth Emmons, also a Riddick board member, send of the art of bell-ringing. &uot;It has to do with rhythm and timing. It’s not just like one person sitting down and playing a piano; it’s like we’re sitting a piano, but everyone has a few keys of their own!&uot;

The choir will perform at 2 and 2:30 p.m. Between shows, Bilby will give a brief presentation on the instrument’s history.

The tour will continue to all four floors of the Folly, where participants will be able to see restored bed chambers, the Civil War room, which carries the signatures of many officers, the permanent peanut exhibit, and the antique toys display, which will be up until January.

For more information, call the Folly at 934-1390.