In the News

A Simple Idea Grows Into A Musical Community Collaboration

by Guest Columnist Judy Phillips

We were putting bells away after rehearsal when one of my ringers looked up and said “we need to have a celebration—a party—a festival!” This was April 2022, and we had just performed one of our first post-pandemic concerts—something that Bellissima!, our community group, had much missedin the dark days of 2020 and 2021.

We had done all we could safely do: 8- and 12-bell pieces, distancing, masks, recording our performances—but we had very much missed playing for live audiences. After getting back to a closer-to-normal schedule, we felt like celebrating.

Before the pandemic, we had attended a small yearly Sunday afternoon festival hosted by a local church. We decided to pattern our celebration on that model. Each group attending would play on their own, and we would do some joint pieces. We would end the afternoon with a concert and refreshments. With the enthusiastic approval of our sponsor, Tuesday Musicale of Greater Pontiac, we set a date for April 16, 2023, and reserved space at the church where we rehearse.

Tuesday Musicale sponsors both Bellissima! and its sister group, Adele Thomas Ringers, so we had two choirs already. We sent invitations to churches where our members played or had connections, thinking we might find two or three other choirs who would join us. From the seven choirs we contacted, five immediately said they wanted to come. Our celebration was going to be much bigger than expected. We picked the massed ring pieces. We sketched out floorplans. But what about refreshments? We had a problem. The ladies who normally handle receptions for our Tuesday Musicale programs also ring in the bell choirs. They really couldn’t handle the task, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Then, at a planning meeting for Pontchartrain Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, of which I am a member, I mentioned the festival we were planning. The SAI group jumped right in. They decided to make our festival a service project and were very glad to provide refreshments and pass out programs for us.

The festival was a standing-room-only success. The SAI sisters discovered friends (and even some other SAIs) among the Tuesday Musicale group, reminding us how small the music community can be, even in a big metro area. The refreshments were wonderful, and there were lots of smiles all around. Some of the SAIs were not familiar with handbells. After hearing us play, they persuaded a local community band (where some of them play) to invite Bellissima! To share a holiday concert in December 2023. We welcome the chance to share the joy of handbells with a new audience, and look forward to building more connections through our art. We are also planning another bell festival for April 2024.

Judy Phillips is the director of both Bellissima! and the Adele Thomas Ringers, community handbell ensembles sponsored by the Tuesday Musicale of Greater Pontiac, Michigan, a member of the National Federation of Music Clubs. The club is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2023 and started their first handbell choir in 1975. Judy earned her Master of Church Music degree in handbells from Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin. She is a published composer, and a proud member of Sigma Alpha Iota, Professional Music Fraternity for Women.


Tuesday Musicale of Greater Pontiac was founded in 1923 and is affiliated with the Michigan Federation of Music Clubs and the National Federation of Music Clubs. One aspect of their purpose is to develop and maintain high musical standards and to aid and encourage musical education. For ninety-eight years this club has kept that promise. Seventy years ago Glenna Mae Cox, a young mother with two toddlers, became a part
of that history when she was invited to join the Musicale by then President Florence Woolcock and her friend Jean Putnam. Knowing how her daughter loved to sing, Glenna Mae’s mother encouraged her to join and she promised to care for her boys. When interviewed, 96 year old Glenna Mae stated that to this day she is so grateful her mother made it possible for her to become a Tuesday Musicale chorus member. Her love of
music extended to not only singing in the chorus but playing the piano and she joined the Hand Bell Choir.

A lifelong resident of Pontiac, Michigan, Glenna Mae was introduced to music by her father, Glenn Williams, who for years was a soloist at many of the Pontiac churches. Glenna Mae would, on special occasions, accompany her father on the piano and many times sing duets with him. After her marriage to LaVerne Cox, he became her father’s accompanist. Glenna Mae praised LaVerne because after their family grew to five children, he was very supportive of her Tuesday Musicale involvement and he would care for their children
making it possible for her to attend rehearsals and participate in musical events.

At one time Glenna Mae was Chairman of the Chorus and determined she would never accept the office of President as she was not comfortable with that position. Mary Ann LaMonte, President of Tuesday Musicale of Greater Pontiac, commented that through the years Glenna Mae has helped the club in many ways, from working fund raisers to working in the kitchen. When asked to volunteer she would always reply “I can do that.”
Glenna Mae’s strong wish is that more people would join music clubs and attend concerts and programs because she has had such fun as a member. Classmates at Lincoln Jr. High and Pontiac High School, Glenna Mae and 96 year old Helen Schmitz, continue their friendship through the years as members (Helen 61 years) of Tuesday Musical. Their love of music and their sense of humor has enriched their lives as they had been a part of many musical programs at Pontiac All Saints Episcopal Church and then fifty years at Central United Methodist Church in Waterford. Tuesday Musicale of Greater Pontiac welcomes and encourages anyone who loves music to join them to sing, play bells or just listen.

Submitted by Ruth Schluchter – PR Chairman –

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