A Brief History of Shoreline Ringers
In January 2006 Jane Nolan gathered a group of fourteen ringers together with the hope of starting a new concert choir. Her initial idea was to offer bell choir directors a chance to ring as part of a group, and they were augmented by other local ringers. The rehearsals that spring were held at Union Baptist Church in Mystic CT, who offered rehearsal space and four octaves of handbells and handchimes to use. A 5th octave was donated to the new group specifically. Beside Jane as the Director, there were 14 ringers in that first year. (In 2019, four of the original group are still ringing, and five others are actively associated.) In September 2006 the group moved to Ledyard Congregational Church in Ledyard, again being offered the use of bells, chimes, and space for rehearsing.
By January 2007 the group was incorporated under the name Shoreline Ringers and granted 501(c)3 status by the IRS. A website was established that year to connect with the growing number of fans. The pattern of four concerts during the holidays and four in the late spring was established. At first all the concerts were supported by freewill offerings, but over the years since then many venues have requested and paid for concerts. All funds received go towards towards the group’s mission: Promoting the art of handbell ringing.
Over the years Shoreline Ringers has purchased tables, foam and coverings, over five octaves of handbells and six octaves of handchimes, a keyboard, and various small percussion instruments…and a trailer to transport all these around to concert venues! In 2013 the group began sending out an annual letter to friends of Shoreline soliciting donations, to help cover the cost of music and equipment. Beyond these necessary expenses, funds have been used for specific benefits, and to offer scholarships to bell choirs in Connecticut who need assistance attending the Spring Ring
As the reputation of Shoreline Ringers grew, so did the invitations to perform. In 2009 the groups was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall as part of “Christmastime in the City” concert, to join with the United States Coast Guard Band as part of the popular Christmas concert, and to ring at the WFSB annual Joy for the Kids concert. Shoreline Ringers have been guest performers at the Boston Handbell Festival in 2008, 2014 and 2019, and have rung at weddings of two of their own members!
In their commitment to promoting handbell ringing itself, Shoreline Ringers have offered several educational programs. They have performed music and taught handchimes at the Groton (CT) Celebrate the Arts events, taught elementary age children handchime lessons in Ledyard, and travel to libraries in CT presenting a program on the basics of handbell ringing.
Shoreline Ringers, as a community choir, rings mostly secular music—both classic and contemporary. After Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, they commissioned and rang a handbell version of Thriller. The group has made seven CD’s, including A Decade of Bronze professionally recorded to celebrate their 10th year of existence in 2016. Some music is digitally available through CD Baby.
In recent years Shoreline Ringers has worked on strategic planning to set goals for the near future. Top on the list was to acquire its own space for rehearsals and storage of equipment. This was accomplished in 2019. They would also like to seek new venues for concerts, and perhaps do a national one. Continuing educational outreach is paramount, as is the forever desire for more equipment. In support of this, Shoreline is exploring the possibility of grants and/or corporate sponsors.
All members of Shoreline Ringers are motivated by their love of handbell music, the fun of ringing together, the commitment to furthering education about and appreciation of handbell ringing. They are active in support of the Handbell Musicians of American, its Area 1 (New England) and its Connecticut activities. Many members offer workshops at sponsored events throughout New England, and have served as officers and board members of Area 1. Shoreline Ringers has become well-known for both its excellent performance of handbell music, and its dedication to the handbell community at large.