Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kodiak’s handbell choir rings in the concert season next week

Isle Bells during a performance.
Janet Kotwas/© Janet Kotwas
Isle Bells during a performance.

Listen to this story;

Kodiak’s handbell choir, the Isle Bells, is about to begin their fall practice. It’s their first regularly scheduled concert season since the pandemic. The group’s first performance is just around the corner.

Ella Katelnikov is the director of Isle Bells. She says the seeds for the Isle Bells group were sown 30 years ago, in a youth handbell choir that used to be on the island. Katelnikov played in the group, but later moved away.

When she returned to Kodiak more than a decade ago, she started reconnecting with members of the old handbell choir, whose members were now well into adulthood. The group started practicing together again in late 2011. Fifteen performers are part of Bells now.

Katelnikov says that the handbell choir helps to meet a community need for live musical performance.

“We are a place where people can make music together as a group. And Kodiak hasn’t had a community band or orchestra for a long time,” Katelnikov said. “And we’ve been able to fill that gap for people craving musical fellowship and performance and that whole community that goes along with the nine months of making music together.”

The Isle Bells’ first practice of the season is slated for Tuesday, Aug. 30. The weekly practices will get them ready for this year’s holiday season, which culminates in Holiday Bells, an annual performance featuring mainly Christmas music.

“We have a whole diverse repertoire for spring performances as well,” Katelnikov said. “But we really tried to capture different techniques and different performance possibilities in the spring that we can’t always do with the type of music we’re playing in the holiday performances.”

Covid cut the Isle Bells’ 2020 season short, and they had to cancel the Holiday Bells performance. This season is planned to go on as normal; according to Katelnikov, performers won’t be wearing masks for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The Isle Bells’ first public performance for this year is soon. The group was invited to perform at the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s school year opening ceremony for teachers. They plan on playing two songs at the event this upcoming Thursday, and are holding a small practice ahead of the event.