April 14, 2014, BY Kathryn Kopchik

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The Rooke Chapel Ringers will perform in concert Saturday, April 26, at 8 p.m. in Rooke Chapel at Bucknell University.

The concert, which is free and open to the public, will be conducted by William Payn, professor of music at Bucknell.

The program features original compositions by Payn and Bucknell junior Christian Humcke; traditional carol, hymn and spiritual settings; and popular classics arranged for handbells.

Organized in 1983 under Payn's direction, the choir consists of 16 members selected by audition and who represent every major field of study at Bucknell, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, business administration, education and engineering.

The Ringers play regularly for Protestant worship services on campus and participate in the traditional ringing-in-of-Christmas at Candlelight services in Rooke Chapel each December. This popular performance, taped and repeatedly televised by PBS for national distribution, was nominated for an Emmy in 1996, 2004 and 2011; the service was last taped in December 2009 for airing in 2010 by WVIA-TV, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre PBS affiliate. A special DVD/CD package is available for purchase at performances.

In addition to touring through New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, the Ringers have performed in New England, Canada, Colorado, California and the Pacific Northwest.  

Since its founding, the choir has participated in two festivals at the Riverside Church in New York City, was chosen to play for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Conference in spring 1985, and, in 1986, toured for two weeks in Switzerland and Austria. The choir has participated in three festivals at the Riverside Church in New York City with Payn as massed ensemble conductor. The Ringers performed for Handbell Exploration '95 in Arizona, and the Hershey Handbell Exploration at the Hershey Hotel in 2000 and 2004. In 2004 and 2006, the choir performed with the Syracuse Symphony for three holiday concerts each year.

Payn has achieved prominence as a conductor and composer. In constant demand as a handbell clinician and festival conductor, Payn has conducted in four national festivals and numerous area festivals as well as for the International Symposium for the Handbell Musicians of America. He served as clinician and guest conductor for the Handbell Ringers of Japan and the handbell ensemble at Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan.

As director of choral studies at Bucknell, he has led his choirs to international recognition for their creative interpretation of significant choral literature of the past five centuries. His choirs have performed all over the world, including concert tours in England, Wales, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, West Germany, Belgium, Poland, the Czech Republic, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Slovenia, Argentina and Uruguay. They have sung in Florida, California and Arizona. Both his Rooke Chapel Choir and University Concert Chorale have sung at conventions of the American Choral Directors Association. Five compact discs featuring his Rooke Chapel Choir have been recorded on Lovely Music and Albany labels. With the recent completion of several commissioned works, Payn has more than 40 published compositions, including the 2009 publication, "This Day" which was written for the Rooke Chapel Choir. "Heart Melodies" for handbells and chamber orchestra is distributed by Paradigm Press and was performed by the Phoenix Symphony in 2003. Several recent performances of "Heart Melodies" have taken place around the world. A new 2012 publication, "On This Day Earth Shall Ring," was written for the Rooke Chapel Choir and Ringers. Payn's works are performed virtually every week in the United States and abroad.

Payn received his Bachelor of Music degree from Westminster Choir College and his Doctor of Musical Arts in organ and harpsichord literature from West Virginia University. As a member of the American Choral Directors Association, he has served as Pennsylvania state president. Information about him appears in two reference publications: Contemporary American Composers: A Biographical Dictionary, and Who's Who in American Music: Classical. In 1987, he was presented with the Harriman Award for contributions to the intellectual life of Bucknell University, and in 1994 he received the Bucknell University Cook Award, given annually to a member of the faculty to promote creative travel. In December 1995, the National Board of the AGEHR conferred upon him the status of Master Conductor and Master Instructor of Conducting and Musicianship; he is one of only three persons who have received this honor in both categories. In May 1996, his undergraduate alma mater presented him with the Westminster Choir College Distinguished Alumni Merit Award. In June 2001, Bucknell University awarded Payn the Class of '56 Lectureship, the highest award granted by the University for inspirational teaching. In August 2009, he was presented with The Elaine Brown Award for Choral Excellence by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association for outstanding lifelong work in the choral art. He is Music Director and Conductor of the Susquehanna Valley Chorale and Orchestra.

This is Payn's final concert with the Rooke Chapel Ringers. In retirement, he will continue to serve as a frequent guest conductor and clinician, write choral and handbell music, and conduct the Susquehanna Valley Chorale and Orchestra with four major performances each season. Along with his wife, Ruth, Payn will enjoy visiting their children and seven grandchildren, world travel, and relaxing in the quiet countryside on their organic farm along Penns Creek in rural Central Pennsylvania. The 600-acre farm, named Walnut Acres, is America's original organic farm with continuous growing of organic crops since 1946.

Five nationally distributed compact discs feature his Bucknell choirs: An American Collage, Albany Records; Southern Harmony, Lovely Records; Stephen Foster Civil War Songs, Albany Records; On This Day Earth Shall Ring!, Albany Records; and Ariadne's Lament/ The Music of Mary Jane Leach, New World Records.

The handbells and hand-held chimes are produced by Schulmerich Bells, Sellersville, Pa. The Rooke Chapel Ringers travel with seven octaves of handbells and five octaves of Melody Chime Instruments.

Upcoming handbell events in 2015 include the HMA Conducting Masterclass in Cincinnati, Ohio, in January; the WISH Festival at Holton Arms School in Virginia in April; and workshops and festivals throughout Australia in October.