Schulmerich is one of two handbell manufacturers located in the United States, and both are near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Schulmerich is the world’s largest and oldest existing manufacturer of handbells in the United States. All handbells are made from bronze, which is approximately 80% copper and 20% tin.
Whitechapel handbells have a uniquely different sound than the Schulmerich handbells, adding to the diversity of our performances. Manufactured in London, England, they also have a profoundly rich history. Whitechapel bells were first invented to allow teams of ringers to practice at home or in local pubs for the purpose of preparing for ringing the tower bells. An entry in the Guinness Book of Records lists the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as Britain’s oldest manufacturing company, having been established in 1570. Big Ben, London, is the biggest bell ever cast at Whitechapel. The Liberty Bell, on display in Philadelphia, was also cast at Whitechapel. The foundry closed in 2018.
Unlike handbells, chimes have an external clapper mechanism. They are made of aluminum, creating a distinctly different timbre (sound quality) as compared to handbells. Handchimes were originally intended to be used as a training instrument for new ringers. They are cheaper, easier, lighter and more resilient than handbells, making them more accessible for children’s and senior citizens’ groups. Handchimes are rung with handbells in the same piece of music, and are especially helpful when highlighting the melody because of their unique resonance.
Malmark has created a unique instrument called “Cymbells”, which are handbells with no handles and no clappers. They are mounted on a rack and played with mallets, providing the opportunity to play a glissando or extremely rapid passages with great accuracy.
Silver Melody Bells are made by Schulmerich, and are nickel plated brass bells which also have a distinctive sound. The Silver Melody Bell™ instrument can be used to add a distinctive, bright bell timbre to performances. The contrast in timbre to that of handbells allows the melody to be the solo voice in musical scores which need more contrast and balance.
Large classical compositions and many traditional and non-traditional Christmas pieces include parts for symphonic chimes. The deep resonance of this instrument is another unique sound which simulates the bells in the towers of churches, giving another layer of audible and visual experience for audiences.