Did you attend the Festival of Trees last weekend? Then you just might have had the pleasure of hearing the Wilmington Handbell Ensemble perform.

The Wilmington Handbell Ensemble kicked off their Christmas season at the Delaware Hospice Festival of Trees on Saturday, Nov. 14, their first time performing at the yearly fundraiser.

Michael Helman founded the Ensemble in 2000 and it is currently the only community-based handbell ensemble in Wilmington. The 14-member group is by audition or invitation only, and draws from various church bell choirs in New Castle County.

The ringers, who refer to themselves as 'ding-a-lings,' enjoy being a part of the Ensemble for different reasons.

Holly Vansuch, who is the principal of Forwood Elementary, is a founding member. "It is a stress reliever, and it's relaxing to focus on the music," Vansuch said.

Beth Zupan, who joined in 2008, also looks forward to coming to Monday night practices. "I love it – It is the one thing I have that is just for me."

The Ensemble has played at Longwood Gardens, First Night Wilmington, Christmas in Old New Castle, Christmas Open Houses in Salem and Woodstown, New Jersey, and the Delaware Art Museum. They have also been featured with the Rainbow Chorale of Delaware and the Wilmington Madrigal Singers in their holiday concerts.

Kerry W. Dietz became the Ensemble's Artistic Director in 2006, having been involved with handbells as a ringer and a conductor for almost 30 years. "I have been a church musician for years," Dietz said.

The Wilmington Handbell Ensemble's next performance will be on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 12:30 p.m.
at First & Central Presbyterian Church. For more information about the Ensemble, visit www.wilmingtonhandbells.org/index.html.