This article written by Russell Miller, Area 9 Secretary

Russell MillerThere was a time, in the not so distant past, when about the only place you’d find a set of handbells (and a group of folks to play them) was in church.  Oh, there might be an occasional community group or school choir here and there.  But mostly, it was a church thing.  But that has changed dramatically over the past few years.  Now handbell groups of all shapes and sizes can be found on the concert stage and in Carnegie Hall.  In schools, and community centers, and senior living residences.  Even on cruise ships!  So, where is the most interesting place you’ve played a handbell?

My wife Sylvia and I play duets under the stage name “Double Ring”.  When our son was in high school in the early 2000’s he got a job as a tour guide in a local cave near Boerne, Texas, called “The Cave Without a Name”.  (Apparently it was so named in the early 30’s through a contest in the local paper.  And the winning entry, submitted by a child, said it was too beautiful to have a name.  But I digress).

One day our son came home and suggested that we think about playing bells in the cave.  That sounded like the worst idea I had ever heard.  But after some badgering, we took 8 bells into the cave to play and it was marvelous. Instead of being an acoustical nightmare, it was an acoustical wonder.  So, we scheduled some Christmas concerts in the cave.

The Cave Without a Name is not a huge operation, and there is no elevator.  Entrance is via a spiral staircase with uneven steps and some tight turns.  Imagine carting bell tables, pads, bell cases, a keyboard, and all the necessary accessories down more than 100 steps.  (And it felt more like 400 steps on the way back up!).  Even though our concerts were on consecutive nights, the high constant humidity in the cave made it impossible to leave things overnight.  So, it all came back up again after each performance.  Our friend, Lee, even took some recording equipment down with him one time and made an audio recording of the concert.  As we play, you can hear some “cave kisses” in the background.  (Those are sounds of water dripping from stalactites).  It was a bell experience we will never forget! 

So, keep playing in church….and concert halls, and cruise ships, and community centers, and even caves!  The whole world needs to experience the joy of handbells. Where is the most interesting place you’ve played a handbell?

To see pictures of the cave, visit