'Magic' of the bells will ring on at school

SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 12:00 14/12/2013
 Val McLean, left, and music school manager Frances McElhinney

Delights: Val McLean, left, and music school manager Frances McElhinney show off the handbells given to the school.

 Val McLean, left, and music school manager Frances McElhinney
Delights: Val McLean, left, and music school manager Frances McElhinney show off the handbells given to the school.

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A set of handbells that have been in a Nelson family for 125 years have been given a new home at the Nelson School of Music.

Val McLean gifted the set of 52 bells to the school yesterday in the hope they would be shared with new generations.

When Mrs McLean's great grandfather, Edward Edridge, moved to New Zealand from Britain in 1875, he decided he would gradually start collecting bells from England to remind him of home.

He was a great bell enthusiast and would often play around the Nelson area at various churches, she said.

He taught singing and piano, led the Anglican choir at Foxhill, established a harmonic society and eventually formed a company of bellringers.

He also had a great love of the school of music.

Mrs McLean decided it was time to gift the bells that are said to be worth more than $80,000 after she realised there "was just not enough room" in her little house.

The playing of the bells died with her grandfather.

But Mrs McLean decided she would bring the "delights" back and teach her children.

They would all wake up at 6am to play the bells in a quiet area of the house to avoid the noise of the phone conflicting with the sound, she said.

The McLean family played the bells at a 1972 concert in Wakefield as part of the centennial celebrations of the Wakefield Methodist Church.

School of Music general manager Frances McElhinney said it was exceptional to find such a great number of bells in a collection that was in such a good condition.

It was important that they stayed within an institution such as the school to ensure they remained together.

While bells could be hard to play, the sound could be quite magic, she said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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