Interim Director Brian Seemann of Boston, MA, has extensive musical expertise, with special focus on handbells. He began ringing in grade school with the youth handbell choir at Whitehouse United Methodist Church in Readington, New Jersey. He moved to Boston to study composition at The Boston Conservatory before returning to Philadelphia and majoring in urban planning at Temple University. In his time away from handbells, Brian is heavily involved in other aspects of performing arts. He currently lives in Boston, MA, where he is the Director of Events for Inspire Arts & Music, a non-profit arts organization. Brian spent four summers marching with the Jersey Surf and Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps, and through his current job continues to remain involved in the drum corps activity. He has led several church handbell choirs, and since 2013, has been Artistic Director and Conductor for the Philadelphia Handbell Ensemble.
Liz Fafard Almstrom of Oxford, MA has been ringing at her church, First Congregational Church of Oxford, for over six years. Liz has been involved with music for most of her life having played the clarinet for fifteen years. Currently a Virtual Assistant working with entrepreneurs and small businesses, she also volunteers her time and her home fostering homeless dogs with a local rescue.
Chuck Arnold of Lowell, MA, first started ringing handbells while living in San José, California. After moving to Massachusetts in 2010, he continued ringing with Aldersgate United Methodist Church of Chelmsford, and later with Merrimack Valley Ringers, a community handbell choir also based in Chelmsford. In addition to ringing with New England Ringers, Chuck currently rings with Hancock Carillon of Lexington. He has toured Tuscany three times with Campanae Mundi (Latin for “Bells of the World”), sightseeing and eating gelato by day, and by night bringing handbell music to new audiences in centuries-old churches. When not ringing, Chuck enjoys bicycling with his wife Lisa and exploring New England and beyond in his (very) small airplane, a Grumman Yankee.
Amie Briggs lives in Uxbridge, MA with her Husband Larry and two step-children. She has been ringing handbells for 24 years, starting at the Village Congregational Church in Northbridge, MA in the 3rd grade. No matter where Amie ends up, she always finds a bell choir to ring with. Most recently she was in Billings, MT where she was the President of bellissimo! community choir. When Amie isn’t ringing bells, she is managing the restaurant she owns, The Hay-Wagon Restaurant, in Uxbridge, MA.
Asako Burr of Winchester, MA spent her early childhood in Tokyo. She has been ringing for over 15 years and rings with the Carilloneers of First Congregational Church in Winchester, MA and the Carillon of Hancock Church in Lexington, MA. Asako and her late husband, Chas, have attended International Handbell Symposia in England, Korea, Australia, Orlando, FL, and Osaka, Japan and have participated in a handbell cruise to the Caribbean. Asako has two grown daughters, one on the West Coast and one in Germany, and one grandchild. Asako works as a librarian at the Cary Library in Lexington, MA.
Carol Elmore is from Chelmsford, MA, and has been ringing handbells since she was 8 years old. She is the mother of six children and is a patent attorney and owner of Elmore Patent Law Group, PC, specializing in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. In her spare time, which there is very little of, she enjoys being a church youth leader, ringing bells in her home church, gardening, and renovating her antique home. Carol is serving this year as NER’s President.
Gail Granum of Worcester, MA, was born and raised in Wisconsin and Illinois where she studied a variety of musical instruments in the public schools. Violin became her instrument of choice with private lessons and two full orchestras filling her musical schedule. Gail graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a Master’s Degree. Gail has enjoyed ringing handbells for over 20 years. Formerly, she was a professional educator and successful business woman. Currently, she is a substitute ringer with several handbell choirs, and performs in smaller, seasonal handbell ensembles. Her passions include both child care and elder care, knitting, nature, hand crafts, tutoring, and event planning. Gail is the Massachusetts State Chair for the Handbell Musicians of America. Gail is serving this year as NER’s Booking Manager.
Beth Hansen is a transplant from the Midwest arriving in New England in 2012. She currently lives in Worcester, MA. Beth started playing hand bells immediately upon her arrival in New England, starting with the Chapel Ensemble at UCC Medfield. She has also played with Copious Notes and is currently playing in one of two hand bell choirs at Shrewsbury Congregational Church. Her musical background includes many years of piano and trumpet. Through her trumpet playing she participated in marching and concert bands during her time at the University of Iowa, and played (trumpet) in the Rose Bowl. Beth works in downtown Boston as the Director of Finance for a company that focuses on the Alternative Investment Market space. When Beth isn’t ringing hand bells, working or commuting, she enjoys spending time with her two Labrador Retrievers, Bogy and Callie (named after Bogart and Bacall).
Tim Jenkins of Lowell, MA started ringing handbells in 1999 at Tewksbury Congregational Church under the direction of NER’s Ed Henderson. Since then, he has rung as a member of the Old Town (ME) UMC handbell choir and temporarily re-started and directed the handbell choir at Orono (ME) UMC while earning his degree in music performance on piano at UMaine. Tim has been involved in some capacity with NER ever since his father, Bob Jenkins, joined the group a few years after it was founded. Besides ringing, Tim takes on a variety of roles in many local music and dance performances. He is currently the music director at the First Congregational Church of Billerica (MA).
Rachel Henry of Tewksbury, MA, is new to NER and new to ringing altogether. She played piano and oboe throughout high school and college in a variety of groups, including Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra and MIT Concert Band. She has sorely missed ensemble music, and is glad to have discovered hand bells. Rachel designs knitting patterns as Remily Knits and works in the dye studio of A Hundred Ravens. On the weekends, she competes in dog agility with her two Border Collies. She and her husband Dave have three sons; the youngest plays in the Children’s Chimes at Faith Lutheran.
Sarah LeBrun of Westford, MA, learned to play bells while in the womb. She started as an NER roadie while her mother, Debra, played with NER many years ago. She now joins us with 15 years of ringing experience. She credits her mother, former NER ringer Janet Anderson, and the Congregational Church of Littleton for her amazing skills.
Alex Przybylowicz lives in Chelmsford, MA and has been ringing handbells since he was 8. He is currently attending the University of Massachusetts Lowell for mechanical engineering. He has studied a variety of musical instruments including piano, trumpet, and guitar. When not going to school or playing handbells, Alex enjoys going to see live music, going on hikes, and participating in environmental conservation.
Karen Quist lives in Littleton, MA with her son, who is also a handbell ringer and piano player. Karen started ringing in her church choir when she was 8 years old and now rings with 2 church choirs as well as a duet and trio with her son and mother. She works in the Research & Development department at a medical device company in Bedford, MA where everyone loves to learn about handbells!
Cathy Shires grew up in small town Iowa but has been in New England since the mid 80’s. Cathy currently lives in Waterbury Center, VT and can easily walk to the Ben & Jerry’s factory there. Cathy started ringing handbells with her church ensemble at UCC Medfield in the late 90’s. She played a couple years with Copious Notes and Northern Bronze. Her musical background includes piano, trumpet and choir. Cathy played trumpet in the University of Iowa Hawkeye Marching band and played in 4 bowl games during her years at the University of Iowa playing in the Tournament of Roses parade and the Rose Bowl her senior year. Cathy is an Actuary at National Life. In addition to ringing handbells, Cathy’s hobbies include hiking and knitting.
Liz Smith of Swampscott, MA has been joyfully ringing handbells since 2008, when she joined her church’s bell choir. Liz has loved making music since childhood, when she studied piano and played clarinet, saxophone and oboe in many school and community music ensembles. She is an apparel industry consultant and has traveled extensively throughout the world visiting factories to ensure quality. Liz spends her free time with her husband and their daughter and keeps in touch with their three grown sons through visits and texting.
Cheryl Townsend never played a handbell in her life until she attended a workshop in 2006 and immediately got “hooked” and decided to start and direct a handbell choir at Union Congregational Church of Groton. Ten years later she is still directing and loves to be playing with NER this season. Cheryl began her musical career as a child playing trumpet and piano and is a graduate of the Crane School of Music, Potsdam, NY. She has been teaching piano for the past 35 years in her home studio. In her free time, which isn’t much, she enjoys gardening, cooking, and being an avid fan for her children’s athletics (dance, football, and lacrosse) and volunteers in Boy Scout Troup 1 of West Groton. She and her husband have lived in Groton since 1997 and have three children and an adorable dog.
Director Emeritus, Edward G. Henderson Jr. of Tewksbury MA, started ringing handbells in 1962 and has been directing youth and adult handbell choirs for the last thirty years. He has served Area 1 of the Handbell Musicians of America as Member at Large, Area Chair-Elect, Area Chair and Area Representative to the National Board of Directors. He has served local, area, and national handbell events as an organizer, a clinician and as both a massed and division conductor. For twenty years he was responsible for the handbell program at the Tewksbury Congregational Church, Tewksbury, MA.
We celebrate Ed having been at the helm of NER since inception in 2000, and we are extremely grateful for his leadership of sixteen years. Ed’s excellent musicianship and deep knowledge of handbell repertoire and the capability of this unique instrument have consistently inspired us to produce music beyond what we had thought possible. His dedication to NER went far beyond his role as Music Director – Ed participated in all manner of handbell choir activities, including meeting with potential concert site folks, setting up tables and bells, providing food for long rehearsal days, and even driving the trailer full of equipment to concert venues. We will miss Ed’s constant drive to make us better musicians, his sense of humor, and his love of all things handbells. We are happy for Ed that he will now have more time to spend with his wife, Sue, and his children and grandchildren.