Going to Extremes: The Raleigh Ringers, David M. Harris, director. For the complete contents, see https://store.bpstudios.com/RaleighRingers/cds/cd-005.aspx [inactive 10/09]. © 2005 $15 – available online or at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh and other Triangle-area outlets.

If we put headlines on CD reviews, this one would be Handbells – Just for the Fun of It! The Raleigh Ringers’ latest CD is full of fancy and fun pieces, and Frosty Clark would have loved it all. The album is dedicated to my late friend and colleague at WCPE who recorded all the original tracks and who was (I can attest) a Raleigh Ringers fan. Digital editing of the album was done by Dwight Robinett, who barely survived the same affliction that took Frosty from us. There are a lot of other acknowledgements printed on the CD insert – too many to list here – but I will mention that the album was produced by Ringers Director David M. Harris and The Raleigh Ringers, Inc. The whimsical cover is striking and worth mentioning – designed by Angie Dickinson of Angie Dickinson Design, it depicts a 28 foot (or so) van with The Raleigh Ringers logo on the side, all askew, traveling up a rocky canyon possibly somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico.

To give you an idea of what this disc is like, here are some of the titles included: “Yakety Sax,” “Dueling Banjos,” “Fiddle-Faddle,” “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and “Bugler’s Holiday.” But it is not all frolicking and fun. There is inspiration with Karen Lakey Buckwalter’s Psalm 42, an arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor, and Hal Hopson’s “Tumult and Tranquility.” Arrangements of Julius Fucik’s “Entry of the Gladiators” and Jason Graves’ “Extreme Fanfare” hint of patriotism, which finds fruition in Samuel Ward’s hymn-tune “Materna,” better recognized as “America, the Beautiful.”

The final four tracks, done by a sub group called The Rockin’ Raleigh Ringers, include stuff by the likes of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and others. Raleigh Ringer’s fans will love it, and handbell aficionados certainly should go for it. The album demonstrates a high level of musicianship and a broad range of entertainment potential.

Without a doubt, Harris is stretching the limits of making music with the unique sounds of English handbells. This widely recognized and popular group may have gone to some extremes on this CD, but it is unlikely they have reached their ultimate destination yet!