Music Made in Heaven is a unique handbell ensemble. Each of our bells has been donated in memory of a child who passed away and is inscribed in remembrance. The music played by the bells representing our children is unlike any other – it is a beautiful contribution the children are continuing to make to the world each time we ring. The message behind the music is one of faith, hope, joy and gratitude for our children's lives.

We call it Music Made in Heaven

Fall 2023 News

Our First National Appearance!

Music Made in Heaven has been invited to participate in a national fundraising event for Handbell Musicians of America.

The fourth annual Ring-a-Thon will take place on Monday, December 4. It will run from 4 to 10 p.m. on HMA’s YouTube channel, with MMIH featured from 9 to 9:30 p.m.

Two recordings of our previous performances will be shown, as well as live interviews with Elizabeth Barnes, creator of MMIH, Barbara Marley, director, and the parent of a child for whom a bell was donated.

Started in 2020 to seek support for HMA during the pandemic, the event has raised more than $35,000 in three years. It is intended to showcase a variety of handbell events and programs across HMA, and has featured community groups, small ensembles and bell trees as well as handbells in education, in children’s programs and in communities for adults with disabilities.

MMIH is one of 12 groups that will be featured this year. “Your group is of special interest to me as my stepson was killed by a truck driver when he was 35,” Ed Rollins, HMA business manager, wrote in his invitation. “Your message and ministry are healing for so many, and it would be wonderful to highlight your group on this live broadcast.”

Three to Join MMIH Board

Three new members will join the MMIH board in January 2024. They are Nancye Gaj, David Griffin and Roger Moore.

The board's role is to help steer our group toward a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure we have adequate resources to advance our mission.

Rotating off the board will be Tom Robinson and Pam Powell. We thank them for their service! Other members are Elizabeth (Libby) Barnes, Ann Cobb, Barbara Marley, Robin Marley and Sterling Smith.

Here is some brief biographical information about our new members:

  • Nancye Gaj has devoted her career to adult literacy and serving students with learning differences. She founded the family literacy program Motheread and served as the assistant director of adult education programs for the North Carolina community college system. She currently is working with an initiative for students with intellectual disabilities and volunteering at First Baptist Church as treasurer, member of the choir and helper with the Clothing Ministry and Toy Joy. The middle C bell in our set was sponsored by Nancy's mother Caralie Brown in memory of Nancye's brother, Brian, who died of a rare type of childhood cancer.
  • David Griffin is a registered pharmacist who has spent most of his career supporting clinical research and medical education in the pharmaceutical industry. A member of First United Methodist Church in Cary, he volunteers in the music ministry by playing piano and keyboard in traditional worship services, accompanying the men's gospel quartet and ringing handbells. He also serves on the Addiction Recovery Movement Committee and on the church council at FUMC-Cary. David, along with MMIH member Phil Herold and MMIH Director Barbara Marley, created an arrangement of "The Promise," performed at the 2022 Gathering. He and his wife, Beth, are frequent substitutes in MMIH.
  • Roger Moore is a Certified Public Accountant who has worked as an audit manager at Price Waterhouse and as chief financial officer at Magneti Marelli NA (a subsidiary of Fiat). Now retired, he enjoys woodworking and serving on the Finance Committee at Apex United Methodist Church. The mission of MMIH resonated with Roger, as he and his wife Cathy, lost their son in a motorcycle accident 10 years ago.

Meet an MMIH Member

Name: Sterling Smith

Bell Experience: 20 years, starting in his church choir and then joining MMIH in 2011.

What You Might Not Know About Sterling: A native of Florida, Sterling worked between high school and college 100 miles off the Texas coast on boats that supplied oil rigs. He retired in 2020 after 38.5 years at IBM, and enjoys taking care of his granddaughter and playing golf. He also serves as secretary of the MMIH board.

Quote: “Ringing bells for me is relaxing and therapeutic. I ring the larger bells, so I get a decent arm and body workout. Also, every time I pick up an MMIH bell, I am ringing in honor of a beautiful child or person who is no longer with us. How wonderful is that?!”

Expanded Online Tributes

We continue to provide information about “Our Children” on our website as we hear from family members.

This page of the site includes the names of our children and the inscriptions in their bells. In addition, several parents have shared with us special moments, personality characteristics and other meaningful stories about their children. We have added this information and photos to the pages for these children.

If you are interested in providing more information on your child for our website, please contact Libby Barnes at or 919-740-5845.

Improving Our Skills

Four members of Music Made in Heaven were selected to be among 100 advanced handbell ringers from around the world at Bay View Week of Handbells in Petoskey, Michigan, in August. At left, Sterling Smith, Patricia Smith, Ruth Stevens and Director Barbara Marley participated in the intensive four-day event led by Fred Gramann of Orléans, France, an internationally acclaimed composer, conductor, educator, handbell clinician and special friend to MMIH (and arranger of the pieces "Called Home to Heaven" and "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" for our ensemble, along with original composition, "Passacaglia of Remembrance," which will be premiered at next spring's Gathering). It culminated in a concert (below) attended by 550 people at Bay View’s John M. Hall Auditorium.

Several members of our group also are attending the 34th Capital Area Handbell Festival, hosted by The Raleigh Ringers the first weekend in November in Raleigh. They will join 300 ringers from five states to work with nationally renowned handbell composer and clinician Jason Krug on several pieces, concluding with a free public concert at 4:00 p.m. Saturday, November 4, in the Kerr-Scott Building at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. All are welcome to attend!

Upcoming Events

We will be performing at several private events this fall, including Toy Joy at the First Baptist Church of Raleigh in November 11, a holiday concert at the Carolina Preserve community in Cary on December 11 and a performance of holiday tunes at Duke Hospital on December 14.

We also will present a program on Thursday, January 18, for the OWLS (Older, Wiser, Learning, Sharing) Ministry at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 1520 Canterbury Rd., Raleigh. This 2:00 pm concert is open to the public.

See the Events page on our website for more information.


Sunday, May 19, 2024, 2:00 pm

The Gathering

Our annual concert featuring the performance of several pieces, along with the traditional reading of inscriptions in our bells honoring the children for whom they have been donated.

First Baptist Church

99 N. Salisbury St.,

Raleigh, NC

Video of Jubilation Fanfare

At The Gathering in May 2023, Music Made in Heaven performed Sandra Eithun's "Jubilation Fanfare."

You Can Help


Donate a Chime

Thanks to many donations, the handles of all of our handbells have been inscribed in memory of a child. But we have a whole set of choir chimes available! An inscription of your choice, up to three lines, will be added to the chime you donate, in addition to being listed on our website. When the group performs, each child’s name is acknowledged in the program. The requested donation for each chime is $300.

Other Ways to Help

We greatly appreciate all financial contributions made to Music Made in Heaven as they help offset costs for the purchase of music and auxiliary equipment, insurance on the bells, printing and communication, and upkeep of our website.

Music Made in Heaven is a registered 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

For more ways to donate, please visit our website and don’t forget to choose Music Made in Heaven as your donation recipient when shopping iGive.

As always, thank you for your support!

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Music Made in Heaven | 919-740-5845 |