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Omaha Church Brings Bell Choir Tradition Back After Pandemic Break

OMAHA, Nebraska (Nebraska) – This has become a lost tradition for many metro churches. The Bell Festival was held at St. Thomas Lutheran Church on Saturday

Jason Horner, the church’s music director, said the festival was an attempt to revive more local church choirs with bells.

“In the bluebell community, we have noticed that several churches have not reopened their groups since the pandemic,” Horner said.

Growing up with music, the bells and chimes in the choir were a second home to Elliott Lockwood.

One tradition he and many others try to keep in St. Thomas Lutheran Church.

“Everyone plays their part, so they are all important, and if everyone leaves, it will make a huge difference,” Lockwood said.

Lockwood has been with the church for five years.

He saw the number of people participating in bell choirs plummet as the pandemic hit.

“It was a short break, but our church got back to it pretty quickly.”

Lockwood said the church has been creative in bringing the tradition back. They will host a virtual choir and private groups with limited attendance. However, not every church had this opportunity.

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

Horner said many churches lack the capacity and resources to fill choir stalls with bells.

“If you have a typical bell band of 12 or 14 musicians and now you’re down to seven or eight, it’s hard to play the kind of music that’s available.”

Horner and Lockwood hope the Handbell Festival will demonstrate the need for people and the impact of music in bringing the community together.

“It will come back again, always everything old becomes new again,” Lockwood said.

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