Ben Salem UCC hosted its annual Christmas handbell concert this weekend, featuring the Ben Salem Handbell Choir.

The handbell choir began the concert by proceeding into the church while playing "O Come All Ye Faithful."

An introduction was offered by handbell choir director Shirley Kline, who welcomed the crowd to Ben Salem and thanked all for attending. The choir then began a portion of the program called "Christmas Around the World," featuring popular Christmas and holiday songs from other countries and cultures.

"Many of the Christmas carols that we sing come from beyond our borders. We wanted to share just a few of these songs today," said Kline. Songs included "Good King Wenceslas," from the Czech Republic; "Two English Christmas Carols," a festive blend of English carols "I Saw Three Ships" and "Sussex Carol;" and "Dreidel, Dreidel," a Jewish Hanukkah song.

Each song was introduced by LaVaun Shanton, a longtime member of the handbell choir who was unable to perform at this year's concert.

Throughout the concert, players demonstrated the many unique sounds produced by handbells. These sounds include the traditional, pure ringing that most associate with handbells, a muted tone caused by striking the bell with a mallet, and a plucking sound created by striking the bell against a padded surface.

The second portion of the concert featured "Daybreak," Ben Salem's contemporary worship team.

"If you've been to our handbell concerts before, you know that we like to invite another group to perform with us," said Kline.

She noted that unlike past performances, in which the choir invited an outside musical group, Daybreak was also a Ben Salem group that performs regularly at Sunday worship services.

"God gives us music so that we can pray without words. We love our music at this church," she added, noting that Daybreak and the handbell choir have performed together before.

"The first time that we performed together was back in August. We had some nice compliments and decided to do it again at Christmas time."

Daybreak offered a number of modern secular songs, including "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "Rocking' Around the Christmas Tree," and the popular "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas." They also performed several pieces with a more traditional Christmas theme, like "What Child is This" and "Mary Did you Know?"

Daybreak and the handbell choir also combined to perform three pieces together, including "Silent Night" and "Snoopy's Christmas."

The handbell choir concluded the concert with a "Christmas Bells" theme, performing popular secular and traditional carols all with the word "bells" in the title. Songs included "Jingle Bells," "Silver Bells," and an energetic "Carol of the Bells."

The Ben Salem Handbell Choir was formed in 1997 to celebrate the church's 200th anniversary celebration. It frequently performs at the church's 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship service.

"Daybreak" was officially formed in 2002 and provides music for Ben Salem's 8:15 a.m. Sunday worship service. Members have been serving as the church's contemporary worship team since the late 1990s.