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Released May 14, 2003


HATTIESBURG -Reputation precedes the Carillon Handbell Choir at The University of Southern Mississippi because of its many appearances regionally, nationally and internationally over the years. That reputation has now earned the group an invitation to perform May 30 at Princeton University in New Jersey for the school's 1958 alumni reunion.

Bern Deichmann, president of Schulmerich Carillons Inc., knows firsthand of the musical excellence of the ensemble - his company supplies its bells. But he also is the chair of the 1958 alumni class at Princeton and wants the Southern Miss ensemble on the program this year.

Organized in 1985 by Dr. Larry Smith, professor of music in the School of Music at Southern Miss and director of the group, Carillon has made a tour out of its trip to New Jersey. As it makes its way north, the ensemble has scheduled concert stops at Shallowford Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and at River Road Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Va. The group also plans to visit the Schulmerich factory at Sellersville, Pa. "We will give a concert for the Schulmerich employees," Smith said. "Hopefully, they will like hearing their bells put to good use."

The tour program includes works by Fred Gramann, Donald Allured, Arnold Sherman, Michael Helman and Karen Buckwalter, and other arrangements by Cathy Moklebust, John Behnke and William Griffin will be featured as well.

Their Princeton appearance also joins them with Ed Polcer and the Nassau Jazz Band, a band formed at Princeton in the mid-1950s and who consistently perform at alumni reunions there. A special arrangement for handbells and jazz trio is being commissioned for this concert by handbell composer-arranger Hart Morris.

According to Smith, another noteworthy piece on their program is an original composition for handbells by his own choir member, J.D. Frizzell. A sophomore composition major from Lawrenceville, Ga., Frizzell has written a piece he titled "Midnight Blessings."

"When I came to Southern Miss, I was aware that a handbell choir existed on campus," Frizzell said. "However, I had no idea that it would be one of the best choirs in the country. Carillon has become an integral part of my college experience, and I look forward to the next two years in the group with great anticipation. Carillon is Southern Miss's best kept secret."

For the other 13 members of the group, their sentiments about the choir are similar to Frizzell's.

"Going into my sixth year in Carillon as a master's student, I realize I could never get tired of playing handbells or being a part of an ensemble like this," said Mary Thrash, a choral music education student from Collierville, Tenn. "I marvel at all the wonderful travel and performance opportunities I've shared with Carillon."

And travel is an operative word for this ensemble. The group performs 20-25 concerts annually. In June 2000, they performed in Europe; in May 2001, they performed in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia; and in July 2002, they performed for a national handbell event, Handbell Exploration, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Other previous tours include performances in England, Germany, Bermuda, and Japan.

In March, the group presented concerts in Vicksburg and in Bossier City-Shreveport, La., and now anticipates its upcoming Princeton tour. And like all of their other tours, Smith and the students raised their own travel funds.

Members of the choir include: Frizzell; Thrash; Jason Barfield of Guntersville, Ala.; Amy Cross of McKenzie, Tenn.; Elizabeth Dennis, of Mobile, Ala.; Trey Goff of Pascagoula; Bobby Griffin of Pensacola, Fla.; Lauren Hatty of New Orleans, La.; Geoffrey Philabaum of Brookhaven; Katie Robyn of Atlanta, Ga.; Jennifer Rowe of Fairhope, Ala.; Michael Sneed of Marietta, Ga.; Amy Stagg of Vicksburg; and Laurie Starek of Long Beach.

For more information about Carillon, call Smith at (601) 266-5826.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM