The Red Kettle looked familiar, but Rick, the volunteer sitting next to it, wasn’t shaking the usual brass bell. No clang, clang, clang.
Instead, the entryway to Metcalfe’s Market West was filled with the soothing harmonic tones of Rick’s singing bowl on the night before Thanksgiving. He told me he bought the singing bowl in Nepal, at a store he fears was destroyed in a 2015 earthquake.
Singing bowls are a special kind of bell known as standing bells. They have no clappers. Rather than hanging or being shaken, the bells rest on their bottoms. When the bells are struck with a wooden mallet, their rims vibrate and “produce sound characterized by a fundamental frequency (first harmonic) and [usually] two audible harmonic overtones (second and third harmonic).”
Rick also had a more familiar-shaped bell, but it didn’t look like the standard issue Salvation Army bell. Rick says he bought it from a man in Nepal who kept following him around and pestering him to buy something. For $5, Rick acquired a beautifully decorated bell and a bit of peace and quiet. This bell makes a smooth melodic sound. No clang, clang, clang.
Don’t think Rick was sitting down on the job because he didn’t stand beside his Red Kettle. He explained that arthritis has made it necessary for him to use a chair for his two-hour shifts of volunteer bell ringing for the Salvation Army’s largest annual fundraising activity. He’s also unable to work as many shifts as he did in previous years
Despite his arthritis, Rick was clearly enjoying his work, smiling as he made music and answered questions about his singing bowl. He also appeared to be doing well in the donation department. Many shoppers were depositing money in his Red Kettle as they left with their groceries.
Rick says he’ll be working a few more shifts at Metcalfe’s Market Madison West in the weeks before Christmas, but he wasn’t sure of his exact schedule. If you have the good fortune to see him at work with his unusual bells, give serious consideration to making a donation.