Omaha church brings back handbell choir tradition after pandemic hiatus

An annual handbell festival returns to an Omaha church
Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 10:48 AM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s become a lost tradition for many churches in the metro. On Saturday, St. Thomas Lutheran Church held a handbell festival

Jason Horner the music director of the church said the festival was an effort to revive more local church handbell choirs.

“We have noticed within the handbell community that several churches after the pandemic haven’t restarted their groups,” Horner said.

Growing up with music, the rings and sounds of handbells within a choir have been like a second home for Elliott Lockwood.

One tradition, he and many others are trying to keep at St. Thomas Lutheran Church.

“Everybody plays their thing so they’re all important and if everybody is gone it makes a huge difference,” Lockwood said.

Lockwood’s been involved with the church for five years.

He has seen the number of people involved in handbell choirs dramatically fall when the pandemic hit.

“It was a bit of a break, but our church got back to it pretty quick.”

Lockwood said the church was creative in bringing back the tradition. They would hold a virtual choir and in-person groups with limited attendance. However, not every church had the same opportunity.

“They’re trying to rebuild again and don’t know exactly how they’re gonna do it because they don’t know if it’s sustainable,” Horner said.

Horner said a lot of churches don’t have enough capacity and resources to fill handbell choirs.

“If you have a typical handbell group of 12 or 14 players and now you’re down to seven or eight it’s hard to do the music that’s available.”

Horner and Lockwood hope the handbell festival shows the need for people and the impact music can do to bring a community together.

“It will come back around again, there’s always that everything old is new again,” Lockwood said.