Bell choir director chimes in 43 years
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor
Saturday, 07 June 2014 02:11
Kathy Rupp has chosen to eliminate more than four decades of ringing in her ears.
|Kathy Rupp stands in the sanctuary of First Christian Church in Bowling Green. (Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Not a medical issue, rather she has retired after 43 years as the bell choir director at First Christian Church in Bowling Green. The bells and the music, however, remain part of her.
“It kind of gets in your blood. I always said I would quit when it was no longer fun and when I couldn’t lift the bell cases,” Rupp said.
Despite it still being fun and her continued ability to lift the cases, she said the time was right to step aside.
“I just wanted to get away from the regular obligation,” Rupp said.
She joined the church shortly after moving to Bowling Green. With Rupp’s background as a music teacher in public schools, she was a natural fit for the bell choir director post.
She has led the teen bell choir, the children’s choir and served a stint as the church organist. She also taught private piano lessons from 1982-2008.
“Of all the jobs, this was the most fun,” Rupp said of her role as bell choir director.
When she took on the job in the fall of 1971, the then five-year program featured two octaves of bells. The choir has now expanded to feature 5 1/2 octaves.
“My goal was to have as many people as possible involved, whether they could read music or not,” Rupp said.
Kim Thomas said she remembers when the bell choir began. “(It was a) big event for the church. As a little kid it was delightful, I wanted to do that.”
She got to join the choir in seventh grade, which was the year Rupp started.
“Bell choir is different than any other instrument. It’s a different world,” Thomas said.
She said it brings people into music who might not otherwise be involved.
Thomas left the choir to raise her family, but her children were among many second generations to work with Rupp.
“That definitely kept my kids in church through high school; they really enjoyed it.”
For her son, now 25, “It was the only music in his life.”
Rupp said that some techniques and styles have been added to enhance the sounds.
She described the “singing bell,” where a piece of wood is rubbed around the bell creating a “cloud of harmony. Rupp recently had seven different people all using the technique at the same time.
Another change is the use of hand chimes, which comprise some of the octaves which would be nearly impossible to have with the large bell sizes needed.
“Those big bells are too expensive,” Rupp said.”
For those curious, a nice complete set of bells runs around $20,000.
“The one thing that has not changed is the people,” Rupp said. “We all join together to make music and that is wonderful.”
Thomas shared how Rupp carried on through various health challenges.
“Kathy has made the bell choir her passion for all these years. She has kept it going,” Thomas said. “I felt honored to be part of the life. She has such faith.”
Rupp completed her master’s degree at Bowling Green State University.
She also expanded the presence of the bell choir music to include the administration of the biannual Bowling Green Ring held in even number years from 1990 to 2012.
The First Christian bell choir along with other local churches were joined by other regional choirs for a concert presentation. There was no concert this year because there was a conflict with another mass ring held at Maumee Bay State Park.
Those mass rings, which can include as many as 15-23 choirs, are coordinated through the Handbell Musicians of America.
“I credit that to all my success,” Rupp said of her affiliation with the national guild and attending its various sessions and mass rings.
The church will honor Rupp on Sunday during the 11:15 a.m. coffee hour following the 10 a.m. worship.
Last Updated on Saturday, 07 June 2014 02:31