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“ Recognized as one of the top handbell choirs in the country.”

- The Wall Street Journal 1/22/01

"Ring of Fire is the finest group in the areas of musicianship, dedication, and personal character that I've had the priveledge of being associated with. Besides an astounding level of energy and magnetic presentation, they are capable of music of genuine depth and maturity (the young age of the musicians notwithstanding). This organization truly has the potential to raise the ultimate standard in the entire handbell world. Along with their extraordinary musical devotion we find a tremendous spirit and personal integrity in each ringer - which can only mean that the future of handbells is in very capable hands indeed.

Kevin McChesney
Handbell music composer, Director

"Jason Wells and "The Bells of Tualatin Valley Junior Academy" had ALL of our jaws on the floor. Here we were, directors and ringers from some of the most advanced handbell programs in the world, gathered for the very first "Pinnacle" convention. This event, dubbed as the "Performing Ringers Event" and sponsored by The American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (AGEHR), was put in place to meet the growing needs of the community and professional handbell programs. Where handbells traditionally are found in church worship services, the 380 registrants gathered for "Pinnacle 2000" were more interested in the future of handbells as a legitimate concert experience.

"The Bells of TVJA were nothing less than the biggest hit of Pinnacle 2000! Prior to the event, their name was not well-known in handbell circles. All it took was their hour-long, energy-filled, spectacular concert to completely convince the handbell world that Jason and the TVJA kids had arrived! Their program list alone was incredibly impressive, as it included a long list of some of the most challenging music written for handbells. On top of this, the entire program was memorized...something most handbell directors only dream of!

"Jason Wells leads The Bells of TVJA with a professional flare that is unmatched among handbell directors. The energy that he and the ringers display for an entire hour is nothing less than amazing. It is obvious that there is a great deal of honor and respect that each of the members of the TVJA Bell choir gives to their director. He is no doubt equally gifted with both musical talent and incredible leadership abilities.

David M. Harris
Director, The Raleigh Ringers --
Chairman, Pinnacle 2000 --

"In a very short time the TVJA kids have developed the skills to produce music way beyond their years, while infusing it with a level of athletic and emotional energy only youth can generate. They are both entertaining & inspiring, and I wish every young bell ringer (and director of young ringers) could hear them. They have raised the bar, showing what can be done that most of us wouldn't have thought possible."

Nancy Hascall
Director, Bells of the Cascades --

Read on Handbell-"L". . .after the Presidential Inauguration and Washington DC Tour

"On Sunday and Monday, after their strenuous inaugural schedule, "Ring of Fire" performed two concerts to over 600 (including 45 handbell directors) at the United Christian Parish of Reston, Va., and the Gaithersburg (Md.) Presbyterian Church. With audiences of both adults and young people (some travelled 200 miles--one way--to attend), standing ovations, cheers, and enthusiastic applause were the norm. The ringers played both fast and slow, loud and soft, but with first-rate musicality. Everything was memorized, including a Karen Buckwalter piece they first saw on January 2. They finished their memorization of her composition during an intensive half-hour rehearsal just prior to the Gaithersburg concert. Jason Wells, their gifted director, teaches them how to ring musically, how to memorize, and how to show an unusualy high degree of respect for their audience, their handbells, and the concert facilities.

"These 13 ringers, their director, and the entourage of parents that traveled with them, provided us with a gift that will endure. No wonder they sold every CD they brought with them, nearly depleted their supply of videos, and were given free-will offerings that exceeded $1,800.

"I hope you can attend Handbell Spectacular in Palm Springs, California, July 25-28. "Ring of Fire" will be one of four choirs to perform a "showcase" concert. It will, in my opinion, be a "showcase" in every good sense of that word.

Ann Y. Schmidt
Area III Chair

"So it's late Sunday night and I'm getting caught up on -L digests, and here's a posting by Ann Schmidt about Ring of Fire (ROF) concerts intermingled with their Inaugural gigs. I've already missed the Sunday afternoon concert, but there's still the Monday evening concert. The next morning, I begged my boss for time off to drive to the concert. He didn't understand what could be that great, but agreed.

"I got to the Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church early and met Ann and her husband; the ROF group were rehearsing in the Sanctuary. After the group rehearsal, most of them headed off to dinner, while a few of the girls had a sectional rehearsal, to hone their already brilliant skills. People started coming in around 7, and most seats were filled by concert time. I'm not good at guessing the size of large groups - 100 to 200 probably (help here, Ann or Jason). Ann introduced Jason and the ringers and they began with "Laudation". Other songs they played, although not in concert order, were: "The All-American Hometown Band", "Capriccio" (including a section of the end with all 13 ringers playing their respective parts on the piano!!), "Tempest", "Prayer for Healing", "Passacaglia", "America the Beautiful", "Carillon", "Hava Nageela", "Siyahamba" and "Pick A Winner".

"This was my first experience of seeing and hearing this group. My initial reaction was "Oh my gosh". I know that I wasn't the only audience member to gasp while watching their incredible ringing ability, and whose jaw dropped on practically every song. As the concert progressed, they just seemed to get better and better. I kept saying "WOW", over and over, and truly meaning it. This was their 7th concert since arriving in D.C., but it could easily have been their first. All songs were memorized, as others have mentioned, which allows unequaled eye contact between ringer and director. Most were also smiling throughout every song, and they were having fun! Their ages range from 12 to 16, but with eyes shut one would think that the ringers are older. Why? Because of their interpretation of the music, their exactness of ringing, their incredible skill, the strength with which they played and their passion - qualities which a lot of times are associated with older ringers, or ringers who have been ringing for more years than these youth. Jason is doing an outstanding job and incredible things with this group, and it was a privilege to see them.

"ROF received several standing ovations, and each one was richly deserved. My words cannot do justice to describing this group. You have to see and hear them for yourself. And buy their video and CD to watch and hear them again and again. ROF's schedule of events (www.ringoffire.org/schedule) shows that they will be the featured musical guests at the Crystal Cathedral on February 18, 2001, so I'm sure that they will appear on the Hour of Power TV broadcasts.

"Jason and ROF - thank you for sharing your incredible talent, and inspiring others."

Mark A. McFadden
Ringer, "Notabells", Virginia Beach UMC
Ringer, "Embellish Handbell Ensemble", Virginia Beach UMC

Read on Handbell-"L". . .after Pinnacle 2000

"The next morning at 7:30am, the Bells of Tualatin Valley brought the house down with their simply amazing show of technique, stamina and enthusiasm. Most groups start with their most difficult pieces, then ease up as they go. These kids (who, by the way are in grades 7-10 & have only had bells for 2 years) started with a difficult piece (Trepak, of course!) and just kept notching it up. They played Martha's "Comedian's Gallop" flawlessly and Ward's "Siyahamba" with such emotion and technical/musical precision. The played Kevin's "Tempest" and Rossini's "William Tell Overture" and finished up with Kevin's "Capriccio". Each time they played the audience erupted with applause and cheers. The concert closed with a thunderous standing ovation.

"These kids played equally as well as any of the other groups; yes, even Sonos, RR, and Campanile (sorry, but that's how I feel). They are the future of professional handbells and if we want our instrument to be taken seriously in the music world THIS is the sort of program that must be built.

"Jason Wells has done a TREMENDOUS job with these kids - if you ever get the chance to ring with him as the clinician, jump on it!! This young man (what is he, 23?) has proven his ability to motivate and get results! He obviously does not compromise his standards of quality, as evidenced by the playing of these kids.

"**Did I mention that they played all of these pieces from memory??** (Jason, too.) Each of the kids, while playing, was focused solely on Jason - the rest of us were just bystanders in this synergistic display of outstanding musicality. I cannot bestow enough praises on them. They deserve every accolade they receive!!"

Michele D. Hirt - Handbell Soloist
Cleveland, OH

"...there were some very incredible performances by some very incredible groups, including the Tualatin Valley 7th-10th graders in a handbell program begun 2 1/2 years ago. Rehearsing 3 hours/week, these kids play phenomenally. And they memorized their whole program - my jaw is still hanging on the floor!"

Judy Treisback
Penn Yan, NY

"...And finally, The Bells of the Tualatin Valley: If you were one of the lazy bums who did not get up early for their concert, I know you have probably been yelled at or laughed at by someone for your stupidity, so I will spare you the insults. They were GREAT!!!!!!

Their program consisted of 11 barn-burners that most groups program only 2-3 of... you know which pieces I mean... Trepak, Comedians Gallop, Passacaglia, Hava Nageela... 11 of them, plus the oldie but goodie Nocturne in E minor by Dobrinski. Never has a handbell group played with this much energy. While their program and performance had very little variety, Jason Wells, their director, has taken 12-16 year olds with less than 2 years of musical experience a piece and turned them into one of the best handbell groups I have ever had the opportunity to hear."

Kemp Brinson - The Raleigh Ringers

"First, a word about those mesmerizing ringers in question...

--Everyone at Pinnacle 2000 was absolutely amazed by the Tualatin Jr. High ringers because
A) no one had ever heard of them,
B) they were flat out awesome at technically challenging showpieces, and
C) because they memorized their music.

Kids of that age can do amazing things if you give them the chance! And it proves that you can't expect anything from people that you're not willing to put out yourself. Jason Wells, with his boundless energy and contagious enthusiasm, was working just as physically hard as his ringers were. He really tapped into those kids' energy level and put it to work toward musical results. One kid, when we talked to him, said he liked bells because it was such a great workout! --Better than a game of tag in the playground, from what I saw. :)"

Tom Parsons - Sonos Handbell Ensemble

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