“Ringing Between the Bluffs”

JUNE (20) 21-23, 2024


Clinicians: Sandra Eithun     Alex Guebert      Lee Afdahl

Check back here often for updates.

Sandra Eithun, MMEd, is a graduate of Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, with an emphasis in the Kodály teaching method, keyboard, and flute. She is married, has four grown children, and currently resides in New London, Wisconsin, where she has been serving as Director of Music Ministry at First Congregational United Church of Christ since 1992. At her church, Sandra is the director of three handbell choirs, serves as choral accompanist, and organist/keyboardist.

She is the director of the Silver Lake College Handbell Ensemble, is an active member of the Handbell Musicians of America, and has served on their Area VII Board of Directors. She has been commissioned to write music for many events and for numerous individual handbell ensembles. She has over 300 pieces for handbells in publication as well as several sacred keyboard books and teaching collections for the incorporation of handbells in the music classroom.

In 2013, Sandra had the honor of working with Doc Severinsen and the Fox Valley Symphony, as handbells were a part of his show “Jingle Bell Doc” at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

Sandy will conduct the Coppers Division and two of the Massed pieces.

Alex Guebert is a composer, arranger, percussionist, music director and music teacher from Orange, California.
He directs five handbell groups in the area; among those are two advanced-level groups:
Cathedral Bells of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Orange, and L.A. Bronze. His compositions and arrangements have been published and performed nationwide and overseas. Alex’s compositional style is a result of his background as a percussionist, his love of film score, and his desire to broaden the horizons of handbell repertoire.

Alex holds a bachelor’s degree in percussion from Concordia University Irvine, and an M.M. in Music Composition
from Cal State Long Beach, where his graduate recital featured a 25-minute work for handbells, strings, and percussion, titled “Ransom”. His recent piece, “Out of the Silent Planet”, won the Bells of the Cascades (Portland, OR) 25th Anniversary Composition
Contest and was played at Distinctly Bronze East in 2017 under the baton of Dr. William Payn. Alex has studied conducting with Dr. Payn, Dr. Herbert Geisler (Concordia University Irvine), and Ramona Miller (former director of Cathedral Bells).

He teaches music classes and leads band programs at schools in Orange County, and has taught several mallet technique and percussion classes at handbell seminars in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and California. Married in 2014, Alex spends most of his free time adventuring with his wife Heather, bicycling around Southern California.

Alex will conduct the Bronze Division, two of the Massed pieces, and the Bronze Plus Ensemble.

Lee J. Afdahl is the Director of Music Emeritus of First Presbyterian Church of Rochester, Minnesota.  A graduate of Luther College, Decorah, IA, Lee is a church musician with fifty years of experience in leading active programs of choral and handbell ensembles in Michigan and Minnesota.

Lee Afdahl is frequently a conductor and clinician for handbell conferences, choral workshops, and church music conferences internationally.  He has conducted festival conferences for the Handbell Musicians of America at the local, area, and national levels, for handbell classes of American Guild of Organists, Fellowship of United Methodists, Presbyterian Association of Musicians, and international handbell events in England, Japan,  South Korea, and Australia.

Mr. Afdahl has served the Handbell Musicians of America as Michigan Chair for Area 5, Chair of Area 7, and is a Past President of the national board of the organization.  He represented the organization as a conductor at the International Handbell Symposia in Adelaide, Australia in 1994, Liverpool, UK in 2012 and Jeju, South Korea in 2014.  Lee has taught intermediate and advanced conducting for HMA Seminars, and currently teaches conducting for certification for HMA.   Lee is an active organ recitalist and published composer and arranger of handbell, instrumental, and choral music with over one hundred compositions and arrangements in print.

Lee will conduct the Conference Choir Ensemble.

Click here to download the Festival Repertoire list.
This list applies to all Festival ringers. 

Click here to download Specialty Choir repertoire list. 
This is for those who want to ring more challenging music in addition to the Festival Repertoire.
Information about the application process for either of these ensembles will be posted here when available.

A pre-Festival favorite, the big hit that started in Duluth 2022.

A social gathering time at Pearl Street Brewery, with song leaders from the Twin Cities Beer Choir, and YOU singing and playing along with handchimes. We’ll once again sing Cathy Moklebust’s delightful composition “Bells and Beer”. 

7:00-9:00pm. Come early to enjoy a variety of foods from local Food Trucks.

Tickets will go on sale in February, 2024. They will include admittance, your first two brews (or other beverage), lots of singing and lots of frivolity. Pearl Street Brewery will be creating a special brew just for us!

9:00 to noon Rehearsals for the ringers in both Specialty Choirs
9:00 – 11:30 Two class periods.
11:30 – 12:45 Lunch on your own
1:00 Class period.
2:10 Class period, plus…                              Rehearsal for BRONZE PLUS ENSEMBLE.
3:30 – 4:40 MASSED REHEARSAL for all registrants
5:00 Dinner, provided
7:30 SHOWCASE CONCERT, open to the public also
9:00pm Retreat to your hotel

Bells of the Bluffs handbell ensemble is devoted to sharing their passion for handbells with people of all ages. Their ringers come from communities throughout southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. They provide performance, workshop and audience participation experiences to help spread the joy of handbells. Since Bells of the Bluffs was founded in 2013, they have been building their skills as individuals and an ensemble with a broad range of music and helping others expand their ringing abilities and appreciation for handbell music.  Marilee Anderson, Music Director.


8:30am COPPERS DIV. Rehearsal.    Class period for Bronze Div.
9:40 BRONZE DIV. Rehearsal.       Class period for Coppers Div.          Rehearsal for CONFERENCE CHOIR Ens.
12:10 Lunch, provided
1:00 Classes for both Coppers and Bronze Divisions.                                  Rehearsal for Bronze PLUS Ensemble.
2:10 COPPERS DIV. Rehearsal.     Class period for Bronze Div.
3:20 BRONZE DIV. Rehearsal         Class period for Coppers Div.       Rehearsal for Conference Choir Ensemble.
4:30 – 5:30 CONCERT of the two Specialty Choirs: Bronze Plus and Conference Choir
5:30 Dinner on your own;  -OR-
Enjoy a dinner cruise on the La Crosse QUEEN paddleboat. Tickets will go on sale in the Spring 2024.


8:00am Worship service – another Festival favorite
9:00 – 11:55 Final run-throughs: both divisions and massed pieces
12:00 Lunch, provided
1:30 Closing Concert, open free to the public. Audience is encouraged to bring items or cash donations for the local food shelf. A memory of the 2022 closing concert is pictured below.
2:45 Pack up and travel safely home.