Chimes ring out in Helena

Published 10:06 am Monday, March 2, 2009

This year, Easter in Helena will be a musical affair.

Mike Ensminger, director of Helena’s new community hand chime choir, hopes to hold the choir’s first public performance at Easter.

Ensminger started the community choir to serve the citizens of Helena.

“This is a very community-oriented place,” he said. “That was my whole intention, to get out and play for community events, such as the Buck Creek Festival.”

The choir’s been a long time in the making. Ensminger, music director at Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Helena, said the church bought the chimes two years ago. They chose chimes over hand bells because of the expense. The entire set of 36 hand chimes cost the church $1,800 — which can be the cost for just one hand bell, Ensminger said.

The church chime choir thrived for a year, but then Ensminger got too busy to lead it.

Recently, he decided to bring the chimes back and take them outside the walls of the church.

“Hand chimes are not very common. Hand bells, people are more familiar with,” he said. “(Chimes) have a little different sound to them. This is a good opportunity for us to do the same thing as a hand bell choir, and I don’t know anybody around here who does that.”

The choir also gives people an opportunity for a new experience, Ensminger said.

“It gives people who have no musical experience whatsoever an opportunity to play an instrument,” he said. “It gives them a chance to play something, especially with a group.”

Ensminger currently has nine members of the choir; he’d like to see that number double to 18 to have a full choir.

Ensminger’s goal is to one day see the choir perform during Christmas festivities at the Galleria in Birmingham. By performing well, the choir will represent Helena well to the outside world, he said.

“It’s something else (members) can be a part of that’s got Helena’s name on it, especially if we go out of town,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t want this to be a church thing, but a city thing. We can have a quality product represent the city of Helena.”