Christmas Songs: Away in the Manger – Handbell duet

Too much of a good thing?  Yes, if you use the bells too much, but during December I bring out the bells at least two weeks in a row.


Here are the posters for Away in a Manger. This song has two parts for the chorus (Asleep, “asleep”) and is a great way to introduce harmony to the children.  Read the post on using bells with The First Noel, and use the same methods of introducing the bells with Away in a Manger.

Here is the poster of the verse:


(These colors are a little hard to see with the manger cutout, so here they are line by line.)

light blue, light blue, green, yellow, light blue, green yellow

orange, red, orange, yellow

yellow, green yellow, orange, yellow, red

yellow, light blue, green, yellow, orange

light blue, light blue, green, yellow, light blue, green yellow

orange, red, orange, yellow

yellow, green, light blue, dark blue, light blue, green, yellow

orange, yellow, orange, red

And the poster of the chorus:


Two lines are played at the same time to produce the harmony part!

I post these posters on a wall, chalkboard, or have two teachers hold them so that I can point to one line with the left hand, and one line with the right hand when the chorus comes. (Yes, I have to practice pointing…<grin>.)


When the color has an arrow after it, it means to keep playing that note while the harmony note is played.  I keep touching the color in rapid succession, and the children usually somehow understand to keep playing it.


I love how the children have to interact, take their turn, and how every note is just as beautiful as the other notes.  I love the look of delight in the children’s eyes when they have successfully played through the song with their bells.

(And yes… you might want to warn the women in Relief Society the bell Sunday is coming, but assure them it won’t last long and will have wonderful results for the children!<grin>)


21 Responses

  1. Mia

    Do you have a specific place you purchase your bells or a set that is good and you recommend?

    • Sharla Dance

      I googled children’s handbells and found three different places that had good prices. I bought mine at a toy store! years ago, but they don’t carry them anymore. Thanks for asking!

    • angela

      I just bought some from amazon. You can get a case too to hold them. I paid Just under $50 for 8 bells, the case and shipping.

    • Sharla Dance

      The three and four year olds definitely need a helper. I usually pair up a member of the older classes with a younger buddy and they play the same color (if not the same bell). I also enlist teachers to help. It is fun for them to try, though. Thanks for asking!

  2. Marci

    I was wondering how many handbells you use for songs in general. Is the octave set (13 bells) sufficient? Do you need multiple people on each note or is one set enough?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Marci,
      I usually use as many bell sets as I can borrow so that more children have an opportunity to play the bells. I like the 13 bell set because there are times you just need to use a flat or a sharp. The bell charts I have posted are only for 8 note carols (no flats or sharps). Thanks for asking!

  3. Kimber

    My question is about the chorus. I noticed on the echo “Asleep,” you have them play the B bell. Does it bother them that the bell is an octave higher than they are supposed to sing?

    • Sharla Dance

      They are so excited to do the bells that the higher B pitch doesn’t bother them. I’ve tried it with at least 300 different people and only a few even noticed. Thanks for asking1

  4. Lynne

    I appreciate your website & all the amazing helps you provide. I got a set of 8 handbells on Amazon when they were on sale a couple of weeks ago. My bells have different colors. Is there any way you could just add a simple index of what note is what color for yours?

    • Sharla Dance

      Red = C
      Orange = D
      Yellow = E
      Green = F
      light Blue = G
      dark Blue = A
      Purple = B

  5. Jessica

    Thank you so much for these wonderful teaching tools. I was wondering if you could share the notes that are on each of your bells. My set of 8 is different, for example I have a pink one that is the C note. I am trying to see how I could change the colors to match your charts.

  6. Erin


    I just wanted to thank you for sharing all of your wonderful ideas. I used quite a few in my primary this year with MUCH success! Have a Merry Christmas and I will be looking forward to your thoughts for the coming year.


    • Sharla Dance

      We are working on getting all of the bell posters into a downloadable form, but it isn’t available yet! Thanks for asking!

      • Maria Thomas

        I was wondering if you had success in making this a download this year? I am very excited to do this with our primary tomorrow and again at our Christmas program.

        • Sharla Dance

          Yes. If you didn’t get it to work, please let me know and I’ll get my tech guy on it.

    • Sharla Dance

      Hi Annie, I have not made a digital version, just the poster version. You could take the colors I list in this post and make a digital version. Would you mind sharing it if you do? Thank you!

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