Bettendorf bell choir performs at national festival

Five members of the St. John Vianney Bell Choir participated in the National Catholic Handbell festival in Kentucky last month. Picture from the Bettendorf parish are, from left, Elly Hull, Debbie Kopacz, Eleanor Kiel, Mary Kowalczyk and Barb Ehrmann.

By Anne Marie Amacher

Five members of Bettendorf’s St. John Vianney Bell Choir joined around 100 handbell choir members from throughout the United States to perform at the National Pastoral Ministers conference in Louisville, Ky., last month.

Mary Kowalczyk of St. John Vianney’s Bell Choir said Eleanor Kiel, the parish’s liturgy and music director, learned about the bell choir festival and asked the 12 bell choir members if they would be interested in going. Five signed up, including Kiel and Kowalczyk.

They participated in the sixth National Catholic Handbell Festival, an event held every other year in different parts of the United States.


The bell ringers were divided by octaves to form a group of bells. They received 11 songs to learn that had the theme of peace, Kowalczyk said. On July 16 the bell ringers practiced in the afternoon and then attended Mass at the cathedral in Louisville. On the 17th they practiced about eight hours spread throughout the day. They practiced another three hours on the 18th.

That night the 100 bell choir ringers performed at the Kentucky State Convention Center for a crowd of about 1,000 people. One song the ringers performed was accompanied by a classical guitarist. Another was with a choir from that area The evening also included a video presentation on peace and storytelling.

Kowalczyk said the festival also offered information on the New Roman Missal changes, and vendors selling “just about anything Catholic you could think of.”

St. John Vianney Bell Choir generally performs once a month for different Masses, and for Easter and Christmas Masses.

The last two years they performed at the Bettendorf Convention Center for senior citizens. This year they plan to perform at the German-American Heritage Center in Davenport.

“We practice once a month – but do get the summers off,” she said.

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