History
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San Diego Harmony Ringers had its beginning in a conversation between two members of the handbell quartet "Carillon" following a church service one Sunday.  In discussing the idea, both agreed immediately that Joe Rodriguez, a director under whom they had both played, was the ideal choice for director.  One person set out to contact him while the other began the work of assessing the community interest and performing the publicity tasks required to get the word out.  Thanks to the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (AGEHR), it was possible to contact all of their members in the San Diego area through the purchase of a mailing list.

The scheduling of the National Handbell Directors Convention in San Diego at this time was very fortunate, providing the opportunity to network with other handbell ringers in the area and talk with members of other community groups in the country.  By the spring of 1999, enough interest in the handbell group had been expressed to make it possible to move forward with auditions.  Rehearsals began the following September.  One of the first orders of business was to decide on a name.  From several suggestions, San Diego Harmony Ringers (SDHR) was voted as the winner.

College Avenue Baptist Church kindly provided both the rehearsal space and the 5-octave set of bells to use, for which we have been most grateful.  Carillon Quartet formed the nucleus of the founding members of the fledgling community handbell group.  Sadly, one of these members, Judy Gifford, passed away prior to the start of rehearsals.  The other founding members were: Mary Den Herder, Catherine Eckmann, Debbie Mason, Joan Mentze, Micki Mennet-Martin, Mary Mussatti, Stirling Perry, Norma Peterson, Rebekah Scott, Josh Skeels, Trisha Talley, and Carol Tuggey.

The first performance by SDHR took place at “Christmas on the Prado” in San Diego’s Balboa Park. This venue has continued to be a much-anticipated performance for our group year after year.  During the first couple of years, work continued in finding potential substitutes or additional members as the need arose, finding music (most of it initially borrowed), and producing materials such as concert announcements and flyers to educate the public about the group and its purposes. A website was also developed by one of the founders.  Personal contacts provided the first venues for playing and, as word spread, more opportunities presented themselves.  At first there were no officers, but that became necessary as the group moved into the next phase of becoming an incorporated business, and culminated in our designation as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (following many months of paperwork!).

One of the biggest moments in the handbell ensemble's history was a gift from Vivian and Oberlin Evenson in the winter of 2009 that enabled us to purchase an entire 5-octave set of our own handbells.  Soon after receiving this gift, one of the board members placed an order with Schulmerich Handbells, and in April 2010 the freshly cast bells arrived in their new cases.  While SDHR is very grateful for the many years of generous support by College Avenue Baptist Church, it is quite something to be able to say about yourself: "our group owns these bells!"

It is our hope that this brief description of our early history will provide insight and encouragement to others who wish to start of community handbell group in their area.

San Diego Harmony Ringers

Original Members of San Diego Harmony Ringers, Lakeside Community Presbyterian Church, 1999

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