Louise Frier is one of those fortunate people who has experienced the joy of being an active member of the growing handbell world. When she was introduced to handbells in the early 1980’s, she had no idea what exciting musical experiences were in her future.
Sometime dreams that we could not even imagine come true. While studying four years of music theory and composition with Professor Stephen Park at the University of Tampa, her passion for composing began. Finding a use for that passion was not easy. For many years, that passion was used in her first grade classroom. The children seemed to remember the words they sang more easily than other standard memory methods. It was also great fun to sing some of the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson and other authors rather than just speaking them. For the most part, those original tunes stayed within the walls of the classroom and the hearts of the children. It wasn’t until she was introduced to handbells that she actually found a medium that could be easily shared with others.
The decade of the 1980’s proved to be a time when music composed and arranged specifically for handbells saw great growth. When Louise began directing a group of friends in an adult handbell choir at the First United Methodist Church in Lutz, Florida, she was not aware of the sources for published handbell music. A friend, Sharon Brant, introduced her to the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers events (AGEHR), and the rest is history. Louise attended every event that she possibly could, and had great learning experiences.
Louise’s first handbell composition was a phrase of about 8 measures in length which she prepared for her ringers who had never handled a handbell until that first rehearsal. They enjoyed being able to play something, and hear the lovely sound of handbells.
While ringing as a substitute with an established handbell choir in Tampa, Florida, Louise noticed that some of the ringers were interlocking the handles of the handbells as they carried them to and from the cases and the tables. She had recently been introduced to the use of mallets on handbells. The two ideas coalesced in her head, and she combined the mallet technique with interlocked bells to produce what she called a “belltree”, not knowing that her passion for composition was about to discover a place to grow. Her love for melodies and counterpoint, harmonic progressions, and rhythmic possibilities along with a variety of techniques available to sound the handbells brought about the first composition written for belltrees, “Joy.” Chimes also provided a beautiful blend of timbre with the handbells and belltrees. Thus, the birth of the belltree took place in the sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church of Lutz, Florida.
She was encouraged to submit this composition along with another one that she had written. AGEHR accepted and published these two pieces, “Joy” and “Love,” as “Two Belltree Processionals.” After this publication had been released, belltrees became a new, exciting method of ringing handbells. “Joy” was included in the massed ringing repertoire of the AGEHR National Festival of 1990. Louise now has many compositions that have been released by several publishers. Though many of these pieces are belltree compositions, she has not limited herself to that genre. She has also been commissioned to compose several pieces.
In 1999, Louise Frier joined the staff at Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church as Director of Handbell Ministries. She established the beginning to intermediate adult choir, the Grace Notes, and the elementary age children’s choir, Bellissime Campane. These two choirs joined the already established advanced choir, the Lake Magdalene Ringers, and the Youth Ringers. Louise retired from this position at the end of May, 2009. Those 10 years were rich with experiences of teaching, directing, ringing and enjoying the fellowship of great people.
Louise served on the AGEHR, Area IV Board as Historian for 4 years, and then as Treasurer for two non-consecutive two year terms. Her experiences as Historian involved another type of composition, as her articles were regularly included in “Castings”, the Area IV Newsletter. She has also contributed to the AGEHR’s “Overtones” magazine.
Louise has taught at local, area and national festivals in addition to National Directors Seminars, and the International Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1998. She is available as a consultant to instruct your handbell choirs in using belltrees, processionals, or basic handbell techniques. For more information about this or about commissioning a piece, please see our Contact page.