Sounds of Bells delight the neighborhood
Some families bond over game nights. Others find their quality time during meals or weekly outdoor excursions. The members of the Bell family are a little less orthodox, connecting through a universally understood language: music.
Siblings senior BreOna Bell and sophomore Bishop Bell make up the musical duo B2, supported and managed by their parents. Together, they perform miniature outdoor concerts featuring a wide range of genres, from gospel music and R&B to pop and hip hop. These free, socially-distanced concerts occur around once a month, attracting neighbors and family friends alike to the Bell’s front yard.
“[The purpose of] B2 is to showcase my brother’s and my talent to other people. It also brings the family together a little bit to work on something that’s like a project, so it’s nice,” BreOna said. “Spending time with family through music is something that we all enjoy. It’s really nice to play with the family and connect over the same things.”
“We’re able to play a lot of new and different songs [in B2],” Bishop said. “Playing different genres together helps me with learning new chords and trying out new styles of music.”
The Bell’s free outdoor concerts typically draw in 20 to 40 listeners throughout the duration of the performances, which usually last from 8-10 p.m.. Social distancing guidelines are strictly maintained, with entry requirements including wearing a mask and keeping a distance of six feet from surrounding audience members. BreOna takes center stage as the main vocalist for the majority of the show, with Bishop and the Bell’s extended family members on the backup instrumentals.
“The actual concert is very tiring and stressful, but at the end of the day, it’s a fun experience even when it’s hard with family,” Bishop said.
A considerable amount of preparatory work is needed for a concert to run smoothly. About two months prior to the concert date, the Bells begin planning their concert theme, creating their set list, inviting backup instrumental players and scheduling rehearsals. Once a set list is determined with the help of their father, B2 meets up with their backup instrumental players — usually family and church friends — for biweekly rehearsals until the day of the concert. As the primary vocalists, BreOna and Bishop also take private voice lessons on their own time outside of practices.
“It’s a lot of work and energy because there are some days where we don’t want to practice, especially when we have homework or other academic stuff,” Bishop said. “But I miss it. It’s just not needed, especially not now a lot of things going on.”
B2 has performed at a slew of other public and private venues following their debut in February 2020, such as the Anaheim Packing District and the Glendora Continental. However, the duo’s shared passion for music started long before the formation of their band. BreOna and Bishop demonstrated an interest in music at six and five years old respectively, and their interest flourished with their musical education as they learned instruments from the piano to the guitar and ukulele. Their father encouraged their budding musicalities from the start, having formerly been in a band himself, and is constantly involved in the duo’s musical activities.
“My dad is the reason why we sing and perform. He’s our management and the person who is always putting things together for us — making the full set, planning what songs we should be doing and who’s leading what,” BreOna said. “It’s definitely really hard to always get along because we’re family. We definitely have to maintain being professional and being playful at the same time,” BreOna said.
BreOna and Bishop have also taken their music hobby to virtual platforms following the pandemic. They upload clips of their concerts and gospel covers onto their joint YouTube channel titled “Bishop and Bre,” and post other music covers on their individual Instagram accounts, @bre.volleyball.01 and @bballbishop.
“Sometimes we want to [rehearse], sometimes we don’t, but it doesn’t feel like a chore,” BreOna said. “We’ll mess around during the times where we don’t want to do it, but there are always certain songs that we love playing. We’ll do them a lot, but for the songs that we have trouble with, we still try our best so we can get it done.”
B2 has been on a temporary hiatus since winter 2020, as BreOna and Bishop wanted to focus more on their academics. However, the duo have recently started preparing for a gospel-themed outdoor concert scheduled for May.
“Especially with [COVID-19] when you can’t see a lot of people, having something like [our concerts], is nice. Making music together helps us make new friends and it also makes people smile, which I think is good,” BreOna said. “It’s also a pretty fun experience to see people smile and just have a good time, especially during quarantine when we’re all stuck inside and alone. It’s nice to see little comments [on our covers] that say, ‘Oh, I like your voice’ or ‘This made me smile.’ It’s very uplifting. It’s nice to just watch people relax or see them singing along or having a smile on their face, just enjoying the music. Music is a way to bring happiness to others.”
By Joy Wang, Staff writer
Photos courtesy of BreOna and Bishop Bell