Sonos Handbell Ensemble
With a collective experience of over 100 years of handbell ringing, Sonos Handbell Ensemble's virtuosity mesmerizes audiences at major world events including the 1993 World Ice Skating Championships and the United Nations 50th Anniversary Celebrations. Through international and national touring and appearing on major television and radio broadcasts (most recently Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion on National Public Radio broadcast from San Francisco’s Masonic Theater) they have helped introduce handbell virtuosity to millions of people around the world.
At the forefront of handbell artistry since it’s founding in 1990, Sonos has moved handbells into the musical mainstream by seeking the best transcriptions and original material available today. They encourage composers to write for bells alone and in combination with other instruments and voices, and premier these solo and orchestral works. The world premiere of William Ludtke's Suite for Handbells and Orchestra (1994) and Symphony No. 3, Summer Rain (1997), with the Oakland East Bay Symphony received critical acclaim and his music drama, Gaia Sophia (1998) presented handbells as a major part of an operatic work. Other orchestral performances have included Ian Hÿtch’s Spiritual Suite (2000), Ellen Hofmann’s Ragtime Stew (2007) on the rags of Scott Joplin and Johann Christian Bach’s Concerto in B-flat (2009) transcribed by J. Meredith.
The Bose Corporation recorded Sonos to appear on an in-store theater video presentation demonstrating the Bose five-channel digital surround sound technology. This presentation, played in stores around the world and reached an estimated audience of four million listeners.
Navigator Tree (2000), commissioned by the American Composers Forum and the National Endowment for the Arts for the millennium year, was written for Sonos, Gamelan Pusaka Sunda and San Jose Taiko. This unprecedented work, composed by computer futurist and inventor of virtual reality, Jaron Lanier, was documented in a film about the Continental Harmony project that aired nationwide on PBS in the fall of 2001 to an audience of over 148 million. Hell’s Belles (2001) by composer Grammy-winning Libby Larsen, commissioned for Sonos and Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, toured the US with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. A collaboration with the Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet in January 2005 played to a sold-out house.
Sonos’s first CD on the Well-Tempered label was called "sensational" by the San Francisco Examiner. Two months after its release, this CD appeared in the November 1994 Gramophone Magazine as disc of the month for KFUO-St. Louis classical radio. Their second release, Christmas with Sonos, was selected as "disc of the month" by San Francisco's classical KDFC-FM and appeared in the December 1995 issue of Gramophone magazine. Their third CD, Classical Sonos, featuring the music of Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart was released in 1996. A fourth recording released in 2001, A Very Classical Christmas with San Francisco Symphony principal flute Timothy Day, was chosen by the New York Times’ WQXR and NPR’s Weekend Edition as top pics of the season. A fifth CD, Best of Sonos, captures 15 years of concert favorites and their newest CD, Contrasts, contains music from three worlds: European, American and Asian. A critically acclaimed first DVD, Ringing Up: Music of Three Worlds, by Oscar-nominated videographer Eric Thiermann was released in December of 2009. A companion DVD produced and directed by Thiermann and Aleksandra Wolska, filmed around the world, For Whom the Bells Toll: Bells and Their Stories, is slated for release in early 2011. These recordings receive national airplay and are available online at www.sonos.org.
National and international tours covering a wide repertoire delight audiences of all ages. Six tours to major Japanese concerts halls have been sell-out successes with every audience demanding multiple encores and a Christmas special with Sonos filmed by Japan’s public broadcasting station (NHK) is repeated annually.
James Meredith, Artistic Director
A native of North Carolina, Mr. Meredith received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Tulane University. He has been a musical partner with mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and dramatic soprano Olivia Stapp. As a solo pianist, vocal and instrumental accompanist and conductor in America, Europe and Asia, his work has brought him into contact with such artists as Elly Ameling, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Eleanor Steber, Evelyn Lear, and Gerald Moore for whom he has played masterclasses. He has been Dalton Baldwin's assistant in art song in summer masterclasses at the French Conservatory in Nice. Recent concerts with Ms. Von Stade include an appearance on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" reaching a National Public Radio audience of over two million listeners. He has been conductor of the Oakland Symphony Chorus, been on the faculty of Merritt College and taught master classes at Holy Names College and San Jose State University.
As a trained, professional musician in the classical musical community, he brings a high standard to his work with handbells. Sonos Handbell Ensemble has done much to bring the art of handbell ringing into the musical mainstream by appearing with symphony orchestras, performing on major concert series and collaborating with other well-established performing ensembles.
Since 1983 Mr. Meredith has been a clinician and conductor at workshops and festivals and has been on the faculty at Handbell Exploration and two American Guild of English Handbell Ringers Directors' Seminars, Springfield and Spokane, where Sonos had been invited to play featured concerts.
Mr. Meredith is the author of many arrangements and transcriptions performed around the world. He composed a major work for handbells, handchimes and percussion, "Kodo Tryptich," premiered at the 1997 AGEHR Directors' Seminar to great critical acclaim and continues to be performed by Sonos and other groups. He is CEO of Meredith Music Press which publishes advanced music for handbells sold in the US and internationally.
1737 Blake St.
Berkeley, CA 94703
Tel: (510) 549-1777
Fax: (510) 843-3567