When: Sun., Dec. 15, 4 p.m. and Mon., Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m. 2013
Deck the halls with bells of jolly: The Raleigh Ringers return for a two-night engagement of Christmas music. The revered community handbell choir has been wowing audiences since 1990 with unique arrangements of classic songs, sacred and secular alike. They've recorded five CDs, performed in 39 states and commissioned more than 115 compositions and arrangements. The depth of the group's repertoire only hints at its charge to make handbell music more accessible; through educational workshops, festivals and camps, members teach the techniques that have earned admiration.
Regardless of that mission, these Christmas shows could stand alone. The annual event has become a community tradition, inspiring two DVDs, 2003's One Winter Evening at Meymandi and 2012's A December Tradition. Those holiday recordings have gained wide traction across the country, broadcast on more than 250 public television stations in 45 states. What the DVDs can't capture is the tension in the room as director David M. Harris guides the choir through amazingly subtle and complex wrist flicks. —Ashley Melzer