Nothing rings in the holidays like the clear tones of a brass bell choir. Just ask Michele DiLuzio, who first learned the art of bell-ringing at the age of 13.
"People find the sound of bells entrancing, and it gets them in the holiday spirit," said DiLuzio, who in addition to working as assistant conductor of the Hernando Symphony Orchestra is the founder and director of the Nature Coast Handbells, the region's only community bell choir.
The choir will perform both as an ensemble and with the orchestra during the symphony's three-concert holiday series, "Welcome to the Holidays," which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. today at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill.
DiLuzio, who once performed before Pope John Paul II with the St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church bell choir, has devoted nearly 20 years to playing and writing music for the instrument. Last year, she handpicked the 10-member group from the most experienced players in the area.
"The music we perform is very intricately written," DiLuzio said. "We use 37 bells that cover three octaves, so the musicianship has to be precise."
DiLuzio, who is the symphony's principal trumpet player, said the trickiest part of blending bells with an orchestra is the timing.
"When you play with the symphony, you have to listen carefully so that you don't get ahead or fall behind," she said.
For this weekend's concert series, the Nature Coast Handbells will perform two Christmas pieces with the orchestra, A Resounding Medley, which features familiar themes, and How Great Our Joy!, based on a traditional German carol.
In addition, the group will also perform solo, O Holy Night and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
The program for the orchestra, led by conductor Wayne Raymond, leans heavily on holiday medleys, including Christmas on Broadway, Christmas at the Movies, Santa's Classical Christmas and Christmas Rocks at the Pops.
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.