Our history


Bells of the Cascades' Cruise III, 1997
Bells of the Cascades' Cruise X, 2009

Bells of the Cascades began in 1990, organized by a group of directors and advanced ringers seeking to share their love of handbells and a more challenging ringing experience. We invited a director, ringers auditioned, a nonprofit corporation was formed, and the choir was off and running.

As we continued to develop a reputation as a top performing choir, we began to promote the the art of handbell ringing by teaching workshops and conducting music reading sessions for local ringers.

In 1993, Bells of the Cascades organized its first handbell cruise, a floating workshop sailing through Alaska’s Inside Passage. Since then, we have cruised the Eastern and Western Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, and returned to Alaska — enjoying the company of ringers from all over North America as well as Australia — fifteen times.

Pioneers in the community handbell choir movement, Bells of the Cascades has been an invited performer at the Handbell Musicians of America’s national handbell conference three times, in 1997, 2013 and 2021. We have also performed at regional handbell conferences and showcases in the Pacific Northwest several times.

We’ve collaborated with many other artists, including performances with Portland Choir and Orchestra, Pink Martini, the Melodica Men, Alex Guebert’s Cathedral Bells, Bells of the Sound, Masterworks Choral Ensemble, Portland’s Singing Christmas Tree and more. We also perform as quintets and full ensembles at community events throughout Western Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Past conductors from 1990 to the present

  • Dick Coulter
  • Nancy Hascall
  • Kris Sparks (interim)
  • David York
  • Leanne Bilstrom (interim)
  • Matthew Compton

Images: Bells of the Cascades’ Cruise III in 1997 and Cruise X in 2009.