SPRING HILL — Michele DiLuzio was introduced to handbell music when she was 13, performing on trumpet at St. Theresa Catholic Church. There was a newly formed handbell choir that needed members for a holiday program.
"I got hooked," DiLuzio admits, and years later, while a member of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, she formed and directed the Bells of St. Frances.
That group, founded in 1993, not only performed at the church, but also as guests at other churches and at community events. They even traveled to Italy and played before Pope John Paul II.
Five years ago, DiLuzio formed the Nature Coast Handbells, the first — and only — community handbell choir in the area not affiliated with a church. The group is known for playing a variety of songs, including pop hits, with many arrangements written by DiLuzio.
On Sunday evening, music lovers will have an opportunity to listen to the Nature Coast Handbells perform a concert of sacred selections and original bell pieces at Spring Hill Baptist Church. It will be the first time the group's show won't include pop pieces.
After DiLuzio left St. Frances about seven years ago, she took off a year from performing with handbells. Then, in 2011, with the help of her parents, she purchased 37 English handbells and recruited 11 seasoned musicians to join the Nature Coast Handbells.
"With the church bell choir, we had to learn two sets of music — church music and a different set for when we played out in the community," DiLuzio said. "With a community group, we can play what we want, when we want."
There are members of the group who have performed with DiLuzio since the Bells of St. Frances, including Pat Kennedy, Becky Grothendieck, Frances Calvert and DiLuzio's parents, Barbara and Tom DiLuzio.
"They are the nucleus of the group," DiLuzio said.
As the season wraps up, DiLuzio said, there are openings for handbell musicians for next season. Anyone with handbell experience is encouraged to contact her for further details.
The attraction to handbell concerts is not just the music, DiLuzio said, but also the visual aspect. The performers don't just ring the bells. They use a variety of techniques, utilizing the table and mallets to make sounds that bring the songs to life.
"You see the music," she said.