Sharing Music and Life
The emBellishment Handbells Ensemble is the first handbell quartet founded in Hong Kong! There are only four members - Kevin Mazimas Ko, Michelle Yoyo Chan, Peggy Pang and Chak Hei Lam. Most of the time they ring as a quartet, although Kevin is also a soloist. They are all handbell teachers. Before forming the ensemble all the members were students of Kevin from different times in the past. So this is truly a handbell quartet with members that span different generations.
Who Are The Members?
Kevin Mazimas Ko, who graduated from Concordia University Wisconsin, is a published composer, a handbell director and handbell teacher, who is conducting 8 school teams in his weekly schedule. Kevin founded the Asia International Handbell Association (Hong Kong), Hong Kong Elite Youth Ringers and the annual massive Hong Kong handbell event: Hong Kong International Handbell Olympics. He also set up the Handbell Examinations in Hong Kong with London College of Music Examination Board.
Michelle Yoyo Chan is a very experienced school handbell teacher who specializes in teaching primary school students. She teaches 9 handbell teams a week. Michelle is the Vice President of the Asia International Handbell Association (Hong Kong) as well as the Administrative Director of Hong Kong International Handbell Olympics.
Peggy Pang is also a school handbell teacher who teaches 8 teams a week with students from 8-16 years old. She has a beautiful voice and has won a significant amount of prizes in singing contests.
Chak Hei Lam is the newest, as well as the youngest, member of the team. He teaches 6 school teams a week. He is a highly trained pianist and handbell soloist.
All four of the quartet members help to organize the 150 schools participating in the Hong Kong International Handbell Olympics. They are also the conductors of the seven teams of Hong Kong Elite Youth Ringers. Additionally, emBellishment members are the founders of the Annual Hong Kong Christmas handbell concert,"Ringing by the Candlelight".
How Did They Begin?
The emBellishment Handbells Ensemble was established in 2003 by Dr. Kevin Mazimas Ko in Hong Kong. When Kevin was a college student, he met the most enlightening handbell teacher, the late Mr. Ralph Yoars. Mr. Yoars was an American Baptist missionary who established the very first handbell team in Hong Kong at Baptist University in the 1960s. In Kevin's mind, handbells are an instrument that tells stories, especially stories of life.
Taking Mr. Yoars as a model for his life, Kevin started his handbell career as a handbell soloist in 2004 with the name "The emBellishment". With a set of Malmark Handbells and 25 pieces of music in his repertoire, he toured in Taiwan, Singapore, United States, Australia, Malaysia, Korea and Canada.
However, Kevin thinks handbells are also an instrument that binds people together. It allows ringers to learn to listen to each other, to embrace, to learn to make music in one heart and to rejoice. He then invited his friends, who are also handbell teachers, to join the team and founded The emBellishment Handbells Ensemble. The uniqueness of every single member makes a diverse team although all four of them are handbell teachers.
In 2010, the team was invited to perform in one of the biggest evangelical events in Hong Kong with a number of Christian artists and actors. The emBellishment Handbell Ensemble performed an arrangement of John Rutter's work. The group toured Germany, Paris and the UK in 2013- 2014 and performed a few of Kevin's arrangements and were very well received. The most memorable performance was in Sendai, Japan where they participated in the 40th Anniversary Festival of the Handbell Ringers of Japan in 2017. There they performed an exciting arrangement of Bach's "Fugue in C Major" which is the spotlight video in this newsletter.
What They Ring
The team can perform all kinds of music, but they specialize in Bach's compositions. As a composer, Kevin has arranged a variety of music, such as Chinese folk songs, video game music, church hymns and musical highlights for his team to perform. The most fun arrangements they have played were Theme From Super Mario Brothers, themes from Mission Impossible and James Bond movies. A memorable performance from last year was Kevin's original composition "You're my Wing" with Peggy as the vocalist, Chak Hei as the pianist, and Kevin and Yoyo as the Duet ringers. The quartet is currently preparing Kevin's latest arrangement of the song "Million Dreams" from the movie, The Greatest Showman.
Learn more about The embellishment Handbells Ensemble by visiting their Facebook page:
Kevin's YouTube channel: