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Ringing out the news in Picture Rocks

By Staff | Dec 18, 2019

PHOTO BY CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Bell ringers at Picture Rocks Baptist Church are (front l-r): Tori Tempesco, Rhonda Wilson, Becky Gordner, Hollie Aunkst. Back row: Director Linda Pfeiffer, Sally Hawley, Jerry Hawley, Michael Bieber and John Pfeiffer. Absent from photo: Janet Patterson, Millie Dessify, Maddy Gordner, Patty Shriner.

PICTURE ROCKS-This will be the first Christmas for the newly established Bell Choir at Picture Baptist Church as they join in services heralding the Holiday of the Savior’s birth.

The group formed in March 2019 and remained nameless until the press learned of their existence. When without success choir members shared several possibilities, Pastor Jerry Uppling chimed in, suggesting “Sound of Grace.” The pastor affirmed his thought by saying, “Many hands, one sound.”

Among the bell ringers are two husband and wife teams, plus three generations of one family. One couple participating is Linda and Bill Pfeiffer with Linda doubling as ringer and director.

“We’ve played at the church during most of the Christian and secular holidays,” said John Pfeiffer who swings the largest and heaviest bells following notes from the lower register.

With her mentor being the late Barb Kaufman, Linda, an experienced director, led a bell choir at Farragut where ringers ranged from grades five through twelve. Both Linda and John were musicians in Williamsport’s Roosevelt High School Band, he on the trombone and she the glockenspiel. Linda, who also plays piano, announced that, “Our next piece, ‘The Hallelujah Chorus,’ will be the most difficult so far.”

Another couple is Sally and Jerry Hawley. “My husband signed us up saying we should try this,” Sally said. All interviewees except Jerry whose favorites are patriotic songs, named their favorite selection as “The Carol of the Bells.” Neither Jerry nor Sally read music yet they play without hesitation as the director posts a series of colored dots above the music score. “I’m color blind but have found my own way to overcome the challenge,” Jerry said. “As beginners, we started with one bell and now ring three, some ring four,” Sally said.

Patty Shriner, Becky and Maddy Gordner represent three generations. A fifth grader, Maddy is enjoying the experience even though she had registered with a friend who’d dropped out due to many other obligations, leaving Maddy the lone ringer in her age level. Mother Becky is a vocalist and Grandmother Patty is the church pianist.

Looking back on the short history of the group, their first presentation occurred during Memorial Day weekend. According to the director, “We played ‘Proud to be an American’ followed by bits from hymns of all military branches. As a surprise to the congregation and especially Pastor Uppling a former Marine, four ringers discretely exited to the outside of the church ending the service with ‘Taps.'”

The name of the individual who donated the bells remains anonymous, however the ringers are identified as follows: Holly Aunkst, Michael Bieber, Millie Dessify, Becky Gordner, Maddy Gordner, Jerry Hawley, Sally Hawley, Janet Patterson, John Pfeiffer, Linda Pfeiffer, Patty Shriner, Torie Tempesco and Rhonda Wilson.

Performances by the Bell Choir are scheduled to begin the Sunday, Dec 22, service at 9:30 a.m. when presenting ‘The Carol of the Bells.’ On Christmas Eve, Dec 24 beginning at 7 p.m., their selection will be ‘What Child is This?’