A belly loud tribute

• Eugenie Harris, David Pye and Monica McTaggart toll the bells for CY O’Connor. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

• Eugenie Harris, David Pye and Monica McTaggart toll the bells for CY O’Connor. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

Next Sunday 100 bell-ringers will come together for a musical tribute to the life of Fremantle harbour engineer CY O’Connor.

The Handbell Society of Australasia will play local composer David Pye’s new composition In Memoriam—CY O’Connor at the Fremantle Town Hall on Sunday September 29 as part of its biennial festival.

Mr Pye was approached by festival director Monica McTaggart late last year, after she was taken by the theatrical and grandiose style of his music, to write a piece reflecting an aspect of WA’s history.

Mr Pye chose O’Connor because of his iconic stature, and he enjoyed the challenge of an unusual orchestration.

“There is a shared passion and, I dare say, fanaticism for what they’re doing,” he said of the bell-ringers. Bells are spectacular to watch. There should be drama when writing music; audiences like to watch, not just listen to music.”

Clashing harmonies with bells up to 8kg will depict O’Connor’s internal struggles and the ultimatley tragic way he dealt with harsh criticisms of his work.

Ms McTaggart has been playing bells since she was nine years old, learning to play at church. She has been working with the society for 14 years and believes handbell choirs are a means of getting children interested in music.

The society and Mr Pye worked with local schools and the age of the performers for In Memoriam ranges from five to 50.

“Children as young as five years can start on the wee bells and then progress to the chimes and bells,” Ms McTaggart says. “It’s very accessible because they don’t have to be able to read music.”

Choir member Eugenie Harris was also drawn by not needing to read music, and now she performs alongside her own children.

“Bells are great to learn even if you don’t read music and there is no age barrier.” Before the performance the society will hold workshops. Tickets available at door, $20 adults and $10 conc.


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