Barb Walsh started a bell ensemble at Alice Maxwell Elementary School in Sparks while teaching there in 1996. Today, that ensemble is called the Tintabulations. Walsh is its artistic director. The group performs locally during summer and winter holiday events. The ensemble is playing on Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. at Redemption Church—1600 Snyder Ave., Carson City—and 7 p.m. at Carson City Community Center—851 E. William St., Carson City. Another performance is scheduled for Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. at Great Basin Brewing Company’s Reno location, 5525 S. Virginia St.
Twenty-two years—how has the ensemble evolved in that time?
I taught at Alice Maxwell Elementary School. And Ben [Brown] is, I think, the only remaining member from that. The school had bells—three octaves of bells—and we had after school groups. And when they moved on to middle school, they kept coming back. I thought they would quit, but they came back. So then we had to create another ensemble. And when they went to high school—they came back. It was in high school when they were like, “We really want to be our own, completely separate group with our own name.” And that’s when the name “Tintabulations” came in.
And now there are five octaves of bells?
Yeah, we have five octaves of bells and five octaves of chimes. We don’t own the fifth octave. We’re borrowing that from a church in Bishop, California.
The bells or chimes?
The bells—the fifth octave of bells. One of these days we’ll raise enough money so we can actually buy that. For now, they’re loaning them to us. Their group is smaller than five octaves.
How big is your ensemble?
There are 15 of us.
So 15 now, but they’re not all former students? Who makes up the ensemble now?
Anybody you could possibly imagine. We have a [University of Nevada, Reno] music student. We have a lot teachers. Some of them are music teachers. Some of them are, you know, from other walks of life. We have retirees. We have people who drive in from Chester, California, every week and Bishop, California, every week.
That’s how often you rehearse?
Yeah. We rehearse Monday nights from 6 until 9.
Tell me about your program, “Oh Wait, It’s Christmas!”
We like to do themed programs. Between songs, it takes a little bit of set-up time. Pretty much all other bell groups, the conductor will be the one who speaks. As I’m sure you can tell, I’m not a very good public speaker—and a lot of them are hams, so we all take a turn, and we will be telling stories about how we forgot things for Christmas. And every concert set, we do different narrations. Our audience seems to really enjoy getting to know the individuals who are involved.