Pilgrim Congregational Church


Currently celebrating their 16th season, the Merrimack Valley Ringers are an auditioned community handbell ensemble devoted to sharing the art of handbells and handchimes with everyone. MVR’s members delight audiences with their infectious joy, and make it their goal to capture their audience from the first note with their gusto and warmth. Considered partners in each performance, audiences are drawn in by the ensemble’s personality, spontaneity, and unflappable spirit.

Our History

MVR was formed by artistic director Karen E. Leonard in August of 2002, with a core group of five initial auditioners. Three additional ringers were added throughout the fall, and MVR’s very first concert was in December, performed by those eight ringers. By the following spring, MVR had grown to a full complement of 13 ringers. For the first few years the group performed four to six concerts a year.


Sixteen years later, MVR now has a total of 17 members, and performs an average of 18 concerts per year! Since most handbell pieces only require 13-14 ringers, the larger roster allows MVR to perform music with members playing other instruments, such as flute, piano, organ, recorder, trumpet, guitar, bass guitar, and percussion.  It also allows the group to present longer concerts with more repertoire, but without overwhelming the ringers physically and mentally, as they can rotate bell ringing responsibilities.

Our Dedicated Members

In addition to performing, MVR is active in the handbell community, and is a member of Handbell Musicians of America, Area 1.  Our artistic director, Karen Leonard, is a former national association president, and several of our members serve on the Area 1 board or committee positions. Many of our members teach classes at regional events and at the biennial Area 1 Festival/Conference.

Everything you see at an MVR concert is the result of dedicated volunteers.  There are no paid positions within the group. Most of the equipment is borrowed. All equipment is transported in members’ own vehicles.  Members move every case, stand, box, and bag to and from concerts, and enlist supportive family members and friends as roadies. Most promotional materials, including our website, programs, and press kits, are designed and/or produced by members.

Over the course of the past sixteen years, MVR has grown into an extended family of sorts: we’ve seen five ringers get married (two to each other!), and produced ten babies (current tally: seven girls and three boys).

Join Us!

The group consists of an eclectic collection of people, from all walks of life, with various distinctive personalities, all coming together as one to create something that’s meant to be shared.  Join them at an upcoming concert and be a part of the unique musical experience that is Merrimack Valley Ringers!