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Utah Valley Handbell Choir invited to play on TV for 'Hour of Prayer'
Choir wrings ringing endorsement and invitation for international TV

PROVO -- A local handbell choir apparently rang the chimes for the host of the television show "Hour of Prayer" in last year's Freedom Festival in Provo.

After listening to the choir from backstage, invited speaker Robert H. Schuller asked the Utah Valley Handbell Choir to be on his religious program, broadcast to an international audience of 30 million Sunday mornings from the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.The Utah County Commission is trying to help send them.

They plan to donate $1,000 toward the cost of the trip for 16 choir members and their director, Karen Eskew-Wyllie. The choir leaves June 10 for a three-day tour that will cost $3,600.

Ron Clark, public relations spokesman and executive board member for the Freedom Festival, said the choir impressed Schuller so much during the prayer breakfast last year that Schuller made him promise they would appear on the broadcast.

"He said, 'That was heavenly music,' " Clark recalled. "He told them, 'I would like to invite you here and now to come to Garden Grove.' He meant it. He made certain I knew he expected me to call him and make the arrangements."

Clark and Commissioner Gary Herbert started working on seeing that the choir kept its date with Schuller.

"It's a tremendous experience for these choir members and they're part of Utah's product. It's a wonderful time to show some of the positives. Plus, it's an interfaith choir and represents all faiths." Clark said.

Herbert said the commission's only dilemma is determining whether the support will come from restaurant tax revenues or commission discretionary funds.

"There's a certain criteria we have to meet to use restaurant tax money," he said.

But deputy county attorney Kent Sundberg said he's concerned that sponsoring the handbell choir will obligate the county to help with countless other trips and causes.

"We used to be inundated with requests so we stopped any and all sponsorships," Sundberg said Tuesday.

Herbert said the handbell choir's opportunity is unique and something from which the county can benefit greatly.

"I think it's a great public relations opportunity," he said.

Eskew-Wyllie said the choir is a volunteer organization made up of mixed ages, genders and religions. It rehearses weekly for two hours at a session and performs at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church each week, as well as in firesides, sacrament meetings or wherever it is invited.

It performs a variety of numbers from pop music to classic Bach.

"Part of our credo is about coming together in a musical activity that requires every single one to do his or her part. It's different than being in a vocal choir where a soprano can miss and there are others who can do the part. You are those two notes. You are needed in a way that's noticeable."

Clark said more financial help is needed to fund the choir's trip. Anyone interested in assisting is asked to call him at 378-4678.