Peppering the Capitol with holiday cheer |

Peppering the Capitol with holiday cheer

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Erica Flores, left, 13, and Danet Campoy, 12, rehearse Wednesday morning at Carson Middle School. The Red Hot Bell Peppers handbell choir is one of several groups performing at tonight's tree-lighting ceremony at the Capitol. To see more photos of the choir, go to the photo galleries at

It was around measure nine that the Carson Middle School Red Hot Bell Peppers handbell choir got stuck Wednesday morning.

It was one of their last practices before taking the stage tonight as part of the Silver & Snowflakes Holiday Tree-Lighting ceremony at the Capitol. The choir is set to accompany the Carson City Fifth-Grade Music Students Singing Ensemble in several holiday classics.

“We started handbells in 1994 as part of our choir program. It took off, so now we offer handbells and choir as separate groups,” said Nancy Mielke, choir director.

The choir’s practice time has been shortened this year, and they began preparing for the holiday concert Nov. 17. After their performance at the ceremony, the group will perform at a luncheon on Wednesday, the CMS Winter Concert at the community center on Dec. 19 and the school’s annual holiday assembly Dec. 21.

“We are putting this together much faster than normal, and that makes it difficult because you need the muscle memory. Even professional bell ringers can’t play just by sight reading,” Mielke said.

The students said they like learning the new music, but have struggled with a couple of the harder pieces.

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“The hardest song was ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ because we were working with more bells. That one took us a month to get right,” said Jacob Branco, 12.

Mielke said the students prepare to perform in any weather, which like last year, means playing in the rain or snow.

“Two years ago, it was so cold that our music in the plastic sheets cracked. The bells are very sturdy and hold-up well,” Mielke said. “They take snow, but last year’s rain didn’t help. It took us forever to clean the bells.”

But Wednesday, the problem wasn’t the weather, it was the timing of “Joy to the World.” The lack of practice was throwing off the difficult middle section.

“There isn’t one biggest obstacle, it’s just all got to come together at the performance,” Mielke said.

After several tries, the group of 11 students finally worked together to get the piece right.

“Good, that’s enough of that. Let’s move on to ‘Deck the Halls,'” Mielke said.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.