My wife and I attended a Christmas party one year. At this party, our friend introduced us to playing Christmas songs together with handmade chimes. They had big posterboards with handwritten letters for the chime notes and we would follow along, playing Christmas songs by dinging our individual chime note with a metal spoon at the appropriate time. It was so fun! When we came home from the party my wife immediately told me she would love a set of chimes and posterboard charts.
My wife was planning to make her own chimes, but discovered a bell set at a local music store. The bells didn't come with music, so I created some charts for her.
We brought our new bells and charts to our next family Christmas party and it was a hit! It became an instant, fun family tradition. Each year we would bring our bells and bell charts and had a lot of fun together.
At the Christmas parties, my wife was usually the one directing the group by pointing to the colored squares with a wooden spoon to help everyone stay together with the right timing. One year she told me she loved playing the bells and wanted to be a bell player instead of always directing the group by pointing to the chart notes. I thought to myself, “Is there a way we can all play the bells together without needing a human director? Is there a way to automate the posterboards somehow?”
Several months later a thought popped in my mind out of the clear blue one morning: “Instead of following notes on charts, the group could follow along on their TV via some type of video showing the notes.” There you have it -- that very day the idea of the Merry Bells Play-Along DVD concept was born!
I knew my brother had video editing experience and could maybe help with the video animation. We worked hard for many months with trial, error, retesting, etc. Finally, we were able to produce an animated video that was simple, fun, and easy to follow!
At our next family Christmas party, we brought a projector and played the DVD on a big screen. The family was amazed. They had so much fun together playing their favorite Christmas songs with several bell sets! With the new Play-Along DVD we had created, it was easy for everyone to see the notes and follow along.
We introduced the public to Merry Bells at a Christmas Gift Show in Salt Lake City in 2018. We set up a TV in our booth and had visitors play the bells as they were directed by the Play-Along DVD. It was a hit! People of all ages loved it and could play immediately even if they didn’t have musical experience. It was so rewarding to see the genuine joy and fun everyone had playing Merry Bells together.
At the show, a lot of people asked us if we had additional songs besides the Christmas Play-Along DVD. We realized we needed to add more songs! By the following year we had created three additional Play-Along DVDs so Merry Bells can be enjoyed year-round: Children’s, Patriotic, and Primary songs.
Recently, we have added an option to download Merry Bells video files from our website for people who prefer to play Merry Bells from a computer, tablet, phone, or even with a smart TV! We still have the printable charts available for download off our website for those who still want to manually direct and point to the notes.
Creating Merry Bells has definitely been a lot of work but it has provided many people, families, and friends the opportunity to “Ring in the Fun!” We love the joy and happiness Merry Bells brings to so many people. Knowing that people are having a great time together in a positive and uplifting way is so satisfying and keeps me motivated to continue to provide Merry Bells to all. I am happy that my wife can now sit down and play along with the family! 😊
That’s our story. Now it's your turn to go "Ring In the Fun!"
With Love and Appreciation,
Brad and Kim Peterson
Here I am using a bell chart to lead a group of bell ringers at a family Christmas party.
Here is a picture of my wife with our first Merry Bells box prototype.
Here is my family performing Silent Night at a Church Christmas party.
You can tell by the look on our faces that we were really concentrating to play well for our performance :)
We had just come out with the Play-Along DVD and were following along with a laptop we had set on the ground playing the DVD.
Here we are in our garage putting DVDs in our first shipment of our new Merry Bell boxes.
As you can see we did literally start Merry Bells "in our garage."
Here we are at another Christmas show that had a Charles Dickens Christmas Carol theme.
It was fun dressing up in an Old English theme and trying to talk in an English accent.
Here’s a video from a family Christmas party in 2000 that shows us playing the chimes. I made the charts and am directing the group by pointing to the notes.
We hadn’t come up with the Play-Along DVD concept yet.
Here's a video in 2009 of my family playing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" for the first time from a Play-Along DVD.
We were just testing out the idea of playing bells from the TV directing us instead of using bell charts.
You can see that we have come a long way in designing the format of our Play-Along DVDs today!