Old sleigh bells on leather straps hung for years by our front door in Danvers – one strap on each side of the doorway. The bells were made of heavy brass. My mother called them Russian sleigh bells, but I don't know where she obtained them, or why she called them Russian. I loved the sound and the look of those vintage bells.
Years later, when I had inherited one strap of the sleigh bells, I decided to apply some saddle-soap or leather conditioner to help preserve the very dry leather belt, which felt brittle and cracked in places. As my fingers worked along that belt, rubbing the ointment into the old leather, I encountered some lettering that had been stamped or embossed into the leather long ago. The letters were English, not Russian, and spelled CHICAGO. I also saw the name "SEARS" so I realized these were American made. Perhaps my mother considered them Russian style bells.
I now use the bells each December in Christmas concerts played by the South Hadley Community Band, accompanying my husband Ken, who plays cornet.
I stand quietly with the bells slung over my shoulders, waiting for my parts. The best one is Jingle Bells. I jump up and down to make the bells ring. They give a wonderful sound.
I used to shake them in my hands, but they are heavy and my arms tire quickly. I prefer to use my shoulders and legs to support the bells. It is fun to jiggle up and down, playing these bells with the band.