Isle Bells

The Isle Bells pose for a group portrait following their spring concert in the Gerald C. Wilson auditorium. (Isle Bells photo)

Kodiak’s hand bell choir will be ringing in the spring season on Sunday with the world premiere of a piece of music composed just for them plus a mixture of old and new favorites.

Isle Bells brand new piece, “Kodiak,” gives the choir a chance to work with a composer and learn new ways of playing their instruments, said Ella Saltonstall, Isle Bells’ artistic director.

“Getting to work with the composer as we learned the song was new to us and exciting because were able to talk with him and email him ideas about how certain sections should be changed or not,” Saltonstall said. “It was pretty special that our feedback is helping create a song.”

Saltonstall commissioned the piece in memory of her father David Herrnsteen, who passed away in 1992.

She said a big part of describing him was talking about his love of Kodiak, so she didn’t give composer Jason Krug a list of technical requirements, but directed him to learn about Kodiak since Krug has never visited Kodiak or Alaska.

“I gave him links to websites and blogs so he could get a visual of what Kodiak is,” Saltonstall said. “I think [“Kodiak”] captures all the different dynamics and energy and beauty that we have here on our island.”

Sunday will be the first time “Kodiak” is ever performed. Part of the contract with the composer is that Isle Bells will give the world premiere of the piece, after which the composer will be taking it to publishers so hand bell choirs around the world can learn the music.

The five-minute piece has six different sections and incorporates interesting new ways of playing hand bells.

One section, titled “Lights in the Sky,” has the choir hitting their bells with chopsticks to emulate the northern lights.

In addition to their brand new piece, the choir will be playing a wide variety of music from a modern piece by the band Coldplay to “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” the hymn of the maritime armed service, Saltonstall said.

To lead the choir, Isle Bells is bringing in guest conductor Dave Harris.

“In the hand bell world, he is one of the finest community hand bell conductors with what he does with the instrument,” Saltonstall said. “People will get to watch someone who is an expert in the instrument to see what he does with the choir under a different level of expertise.”

The Spring Ring is at 3 p.m. on Sunday in the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium. Tickets are $5.

Julie Herrmann is a staff reporter at the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at 486-3227 ext. 627.

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