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Britt Conley’s Stained Glass Work Shines at Virginia Bronze Community Handbell Ensemble Concert

By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor

Virginia Bronze Community Handbell Ensemble performing “Mystical and Majestic: Music and Light” with Artist Britt Conley’s stained glass and interactive light show in background

Photos by Forrest MacCormack

Here is a multi-sensory experience you are not going to want to miss, and don’t have to since it’s going to be repeated in a week! If, on Saturday, June 17 at 4 pm, you make the short jaunt down Route 123 or Route 95 S toward Lorton, Va. to the Workhouse Arts Center which is housed in the old Lorton prison, I guarantee you will witness something extraordinary.  Let your senses come alive to the sound of the Virginia Bronze Community Handbell Ensemble playing heavenly classical music while you gaze upon four six-foot-tall, stunningly beautiful stained glass artworks, which will come to musical life before your eyes through expert lighting.  It’s a totally exhilarating experience not to be forgotten.I heard the first of two concerts by this amazing group of artists last Sunday in the beautiful vaulted auditorium of the George Washington Masonic Memorial on King Street in Alexandria. You may remember that on April 18 I posted an article in The Zebra announcing this upcoming concert.  Little did I know what was in store for the several hundred folks in the audience that evening.

For the last decade, Virginia Bronze Community Handbell Ensemble has been headed by Artistic Director, Carol Feather Martin.  Martin’s trademark expanded repertoire offers a greater classical musical variety than traditionally seen in other handbell ensembles.  The evening’s concert I witnessed was no exception and provided wonderfully successful works including Gabrieli’s “Canzon,” Orff’s “O’Fortuna,” Rutter’s “Pie Jesu,” and Jason Krug’s “Rite and Ritual” to name a few.

Artist Britt Conley’s Orange stained glass art piece created for Virginia Bronze Community Handbell Ensemble’s “Mystical and Majestic: Music and Light”
Photo by Forrest MacCormack

Carol Feather Martin also has transcribed and arranged many of the works the Virginia Bronze Handbell group plays and has collaborated with composers for years. However, this year she embraced recent trends and broadened her efforts toward a true art and music partnership.  She and visual soundscape artist, Britt Conley, engineered a stunning night entitled “Mystical & Majestic: Music and Light.”

Just for this evening Conley created four large-scale stained glass works, each representing a different musical piece including: “Nimrod” by Edward Elgar, “The Firebird Suite Finale” by Igor Stravinsky, “The Sunken Cathedral” by Claude Debussy and “The Great Gate of Kiev” by Modest Mussorgsky.  Well known for her visualizations of music and musicality while exploring the physics of music, Conley chose to visualize the four works in stained glass with an interactive light show emanating from within the borders of the glass itself.  Her art beautifully towered above the ensemble offering a continually changing luminous experience while each piece was performed.

One of the other highlights of the night was the truly gorgeous commissioned work by Jason W. Krug entitled “Rite and Ritual.”  This piece uses Virginia Bronze Handbell’s silver melody bells and hand chimes to capture his reflections and enigmatic feelings on Stonehenge.

This truly was a transporting experience of sight and sound like no other I’ve ever witnessed. Try it. You’ll like it, I promise! And I’ll be there!

Performance and Ticket Information:

Saturday, June 17, 4 pm, “Mystical and Majestic: Music and Light Encore Performance,” McGuire Woods Gallery, Building 16 Second Floor, Workhouse Arts Center, 9518  Workhouse Way, Lorton, VA 22079.  Free.  No tickets required.

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