The bells chime just as they do in any other bell choir. But the people holding the instruments in the University of New Orleans Training, Resource, and Assistive-Technology Center bell choir are far from ordinary: All of the members of this performance group are blind or visually impaired.
Though they don’t read music, this choir is able to play even complex pieces such as the “Star Spangled Banner” with the help of technology provided to them.
The eight to 10 person group will perform for the first time Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. at UNO in the Oliver St. Pé Center, Room 101.
Small cell phones programmed to buzz in time with the music alert members of the group when to chime their bells. ARBECY, a company founded by former New Orleans resident Jerome Simon, is providing the technology to the UNO group for the first time.
Rose Angelocci, a rehab training specialist at TRAC who is also visually impaired, said working in the bell choir has positive therapeutic effects for people who are willing to try it. Not only does it give students experience working in collaboration with others, the act of practicing and performing beautiful pieces of music has its own value and reward.
“Musical experience is not necessary,” Angelocci said. “You just have to be good at reacting.”
Angelocci said that Simon, who started working on the music system in the 1970s while a graduate student at Loyola University of New Orleans, is still refining the tool and has been working with UNO as part of that process. Angelocci said she hopes eventually to be able to incorporate the bell choir training on a permanent basis.
Since its founding in 1986, TRAC has provided training and assistive technology to help individuals throughout Louisiana with visual, hearing, physical and learning challenges adapt in the workplace.
Admission to Sunday’s concert is free. Donations will be accepted for the TRAC Creative Music and Jazz Camp Foundation to support the bell choir and TRAC programs.