About Us

New England Ringers members descend on Oxford, MA from throughout New England to rehearse. Some ringers (the truly bell-crazy ones) travel more than two hours each way to rehearsals. These marathon rehearsals are powered by plenty of coffee and chocolate, both of which flow freely. Between meetings, ringers rehearse individually and in sectionals throughout the region. Current members come from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont.


New England Ringers was founded by some of the region’s most talented ringers in 2000 for the purpose of attending and ringing at the National Directors Seminar of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers in Buffalo, New York. Following that event, the ensemble continued with the mission of performing challenging music at its highest level. Membership is offered to qualified and interested ringers by audition and invitation of the ensemble. NER rings on a core instrument of six octaves of Schulmerich Handbells and seven octaves of Malmark Choirchimes. The original five-octave set was received as a gift from an anonymous donor in February 2004.

Director

Cheryl Townsend has been a ringer-member of The New England Ringers since 2014 and is excited to be NER’s next Music Director. 

In 2006 she was introduced to handbells at a music conference, which prompted her to start a handbell choir, the Faith Ringers, at The Union Congregational Church in Groton, MA where she has directed for the past 17 years. Cheryl will continue to serve as their Handbell Director.

Cheryl has been actively involved in music since she began piano lessons at 6 years old, played trumpet through high school and earned a Bachelor of Music at the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, NY. She has been teaching piano since 1985 and especially enjoys accompanying choral groups, soloists, and musical theater. 

Cheryl is thrilled to continue the work of the directors before her, work collaboratively with the board outlining goals and creating a clear vision for the organization. She strives to create a welcoming culture based on trust and inclusion in everything she does. 

Currently, she works at FranklinCovey as a Client Engagement Coordinator, which specializes in personal development and leadership training throughout the world. In her limited free time, Cheryl enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and gardening.



Ringers

Liz Almstrom of Oxford, MA has been ringing at her church, First Congregational Church of Oxford, for over 20 years. Liz has been involved with music for most of her life, starting with the clarinet in 4th grade. Liz owns her own screen printing and embroidery business, and enjoys camping with her husband and three wonderful children.


Susie Amos of Worcester, MA, began ringing handbells in 6th grade at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, Kansas, and rang for seven years there. 20 years later she came back to ringing with the birth of her first child, joining the First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury. She is now a mother of three, and teaches English as a Second Language to adults.


Samantha Beschta began ringing handbells when she was 15, and has always been involved in music, earning two B.S. degrees in Vocal Performance and Acting/Directing. Currently, Samantha rings with ChimeIn! Music with a Mission in Bethlehem CT, where she also serves as the Assistant Director, and FaLiSaD (pronounced Felicity), a handbell trio with her best friends. In 2015, she co-created the Connecticut Handbell Musicians. She is the Director of this process oriented group of ringers who continute to do this crazy thing when their home choirs take a break over the summer, using the time to learn new tehniques and stretch and grow as invidiuals, ringers, and musicians. Samantha and her husband Mike have two amazing kids, Dashiell and Penelope. 


Ashton Brennecke, originally from Kentucky, is now happy to call Massachusetts her home. She has four years of ringing experience through her church and her undergraduate college. After a long hiatus from ringing and feeling like something was missing, she began her journey back to the arts. She sought out the New England Ringers, falling in love all over again with the art of handbell ringing. In her free time, Ashton loves to play video games and watch anime. 

Amie Briggs lives in Uxbridge, MA with her two children. She has been ringing handbells for over 30 years, starting at the Village Congregational Church in Northbridge, MA in the 3rd grade. No matter where Amie ends up, she always finds a bell choir to ring with. Most recently she was in Billings, MT where she was the President of bellissimo! community choir. When Amie isn't playing handbells, she works as an office manager and a real estate agent.


Farrell Brown began ringing in the 4th grade at Community United Methodist Church in Ogden, UT.  She joined Chime In! Music with a Mission in Bethlehem, CT shortly after graduating from the University of Connecticut.  She is also a member of the Connecticut Handbell Musicians in Bristol, CT and a handbell trio. When she’s not ringing handbells, she works as a biomedical engineer at a medical device start-up.


Linn Clark, of Shrewsbury, MA, started ringing in 2017 at the First Congregational church in Shrewsbury after a lifetime of waiting. She has enjoyed music all her life, from piano to chorus. She is a proud mother of her adult daughter and has worked as an elementary school teacher for 28 years.


Carolyn Elmore lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been ringing for about 50 years. She began playing with NER in 2008, and also rings with the Faith Ringers at the Union Congregational church in Groton, Massachusetts. Carol is a patent attorney and the president of Elmore Patent Law Group, a boutique firm specializing in pharmaceuticals and life sciences, in Westford, Massachusetts. She is the mother of five adult children. In her free time, she enjoys gardening and her two dogs.


Caroline Espe began ringing handbells at 13 years old at First Congregational Church in West Bolyston, MA. She has enjoyed being a aprt of various church and community choirs since she was young and is currently singing and ringing at First Congregational Church in Shrewrsbury, MA. When not working or in school, Caroline can be found snowboarding when weather permits, and hiking when it does not. 


Beth Hansen of Worcester, MA moved to New England in 2012. She has a musical background in piano and trumpet, even playing trumpet in the Rose Bowl! Beth began ringing handbells with the Chapel Ensemble at UCC Medfield and rang with Copious Notes for a time. Beth currently rings in the choir at First Congregational UCC in Shrewsbury, MA. In addition to playing handbells, she enjoys gardening, playing with her dogs, and teaching her grandson how to cook. 


Tim Jenkins started ringing when he was 11 years old with the youth handbell choir at Tewksbury (MA) Congregational Church. Since then, he has rung full-time with, directed, or helped out several handbell ensembles. He has been involved with NER in one capacity or another for the majority of their seasons since they were founded. Tim is currently the music director at First Congregational Church in Billerica (MA) and spends much of his free time building up his nutcracker collection.


Megan Mendenhall lives in Cambridge, MA. She started ringing handbells during college with the Smith College Handbell Choir. She has also played with the Handbell Choir at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury in her hometown. Megan plays a variety of instruments, including the clarinet, saxophone, and flute. She is also a choral singer. Megan is an elementary special education teacher. In her free time, she enjoys sailing, gardening, and traveling.


Katherine Murcko of Holliston MA, has been ringing since 1993 at Holliston’s First Congregational Church. She also directed the handbell choir at Christ the King Church of Holliston for 12 years. Previously an elementary and early childhood teacher, she is currently a literacy volunteer at a local library and participates in therapeutic horseback riding. Kathy and her husband Mark enjoy spending time at their Landgrove, VT home, traveling, and going to concerts. 


Todd Sauter lives in Littleton, MA and joined NER in 2022 after many years of ringing in the First Congregational Church of Oxford, where he also serves as moderator and historian. In his youth, Todd was a brass player and a member of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band and the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps. Todd is an audiologist and the owner of Audiology Associates of Worcester. He has two young adult children and enjoys camping and hiking when away from the office.


Cathy Shires, originally from Iowa, currently lives in Waterbury Center, VT and can easily walk to the Ben & Jerry’s factory there. Cathy started ringing handbells with her church ensemble at UCC Medfield in the late 90’s. She played a couple years with Copious Notes and Northern Bronze. Her musical background includes piano, choir, and playing trumpet in the University of Iowa Hawkeye Marching band. In addition to ringing handbells, Cathy’s hobbies include hiking and knitting.


Curtis Smith is the director of music at the First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury. He has been playing handbells for 7 years. He also enjoys making music with the pipe organ and piano. 


Dawn Stitham started ringing bells in 1999 at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Bristol, CT. Dawn has participated with the Connecticut Handbell Musicians (Summer Bells), joined Chime In! Music with a Mission out of Bethlehem, CT, and joined her best friends in the handbell trio called FaLiSaD (pronounced Felicity). Dawn has been married to husband, Daniel, for 26 years and they have a son, Mark, and his wife, Whitney. Dawn has three grandchildren: Zoey, Nikolas, Zachary, the loves of her life! 


Heather Topolski, of Pittsfield, MA, began ringing handbells in 2011. She has rung with the South Street Church in St. Johnsbury, VT, the First Congregational Church in Gardner, MA, and currently rings with the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Ringers in Pittsfield. Heather is an elementary school music teacher, and enjoys playing various instruments with her students, including ukulele, recorder, flute, and cello. In her free time, Heather enjoys refereeing Roller Derby, reading, and checking out breweries.


Amelia Wiggins began ringing handbells in 4th grade at the Congregational Church of Littleton, MA, and it was love at first sight! She attended as many handbell events as possible, including Family Handbell Camp, Massachusetts Youth Spring Rings, and the Area 1 Festival/Conferences. Amelia joined NER in 2012 for a short time before pursuing a volunteer position abroad in El Salvador, and nearly 9 years later, she is back ringing full time, and couldn’t be happier!


Gina Marie Williams of Ledyard, CT, has been ringing for 24 years. She is the Director of Music and Worship Technology at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Gales Ferry, CT, where she directs five handbell choirs and a senior vocal choir. Gina is an avid arranger of handbell music, concert band, and various small ensembles. She has four grown adult children and a cat named Jackie. Gina is thrilled to be a member of NER, especially with the new friends that she has made. 


Director Emeritus

Edward G. Henderson Jr. of Tewksbury MA, started ringing handbells in 1962 and has been directing youth and adult handbell choirs for the last thirty years.  He has served Area 1 of the Handbell Musicians of America as Member at Large, Area Chair-Elect, Area Chair and Area Representative to the National Board of Directors. He has served local, area, and national handbell events as an organizer, a clinician and as both a massed and division conductor. For twenty years he was responsible for the handbell program at the Tewksbury Congregational Church, Tewksbury, MA.


Daniel K. Moore, of Rumfield, RI, retired from teaching and directing the Concert Handbell Ringers of the Wheeler School in Providence, RI after 37 years of service to the school. His auditioned ensembles appeared frequently on television, performed with the Rhode Island Philharmonic, and opened concerts at both national and regional handbell festivals. Recordings include Joy to the World (Empire Brass), Inside Fessiwigs (Ed Sweeney), and on several solo CD’s. Dan was a charter member of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers’ committee to promote handbells in education, and subsequently served on the area and national AGEHR/HMA boards in many capacities, most recently as Chair of AGEHR’s second Certification Program. Dan continues to be a frequent clinician, organizer, and conductor at handbell ringing events. His comprehensive handbell textbook, “Ringing RIGHT! From the Beginning”, a resource for ringers and directors alike, was published by HMA/AGEHR.