Twenty-five years ago, Jan Baker had never heard of playing bells as a musical instrument and had never seen or heard a bell choir. Then she heard a guest musician at First United Methodist Church, Martha Ann McCarty, perform ‘˜Amazing Grace’ on the bells and her jaw dropped. ‘It was amazing one person could make such beautiful music. It was love at first sound,’ Baker said.A friend told her about a set of bells that had been hidden away in a church closet since the 1960s. She dug them out, gathered eight people and formed the FUMC bell choir.Two of the original members, Judy Smith and Kay Barnett, had previous experience. They taught members how to hold a bell, ring and stop the sound. Another director suggested literature. The group practiced for a year before their first performance at a Christmas service. They’ve performed every Christmas since and ring at the Sunday service at least once per month.Three of the original members – Bill Allen, Jeff Baker and Julie Starman – are still performing. Choir members are extremely dedicated, delaying vacations and leaving hospitals to perform.There have been plenty of special moments. At Bethel Baptist Church in Milner, the choir began ringing ‘˜The Old Rugged Cross’ and people began sing, filling the church with the familiar old hymn with its message of sacrifice and salvation.Now known as the Chancel Bell Choir, the group has 11 members. There is a second group for beginners known as the King’s Ringers. Baker works with new ringers individually, honing their craft.Both choirs will perform during a free concert May 19 honoring Baker’s 25th anniversary. The concert will begin at 3 p.m. in the church sanctuary and will be followed by a reception in the fellowship hall.For more information, call the church office at 770-358-1494.
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