As the title of this post suggests, today is the first day of my daughter’s first handbell festival --- the AGEHR Area I Festival Conference 2007. Held on the campus of the University of Rhode Island, “festival” is a time to meet other ringers, learn new skills, and play in a much-heralded “mass ring.” For those unfamiliar with handbells, the latter is when ALL the attendee ringers at a festival play the same piece of music simultaneously. Imagine if you will, 780 individuals wielding handbells, all playing "March Triumphale" by Michael Helman at the same time. It is truly an amazing phenomenon to witness, both with the ears and with the eyes.
The thrust of festival activities this afternoon focused on preparations and paperwork: setting up the tables and bells on the floor of the Ryan Center, receiving registration information, determining schedules, that sort of thing. Once those tasks were completed, however, it was off to the vendor concourse for a quick look at music and supplies, followed by a walk to the Hope Commons dining hall (by all appearances, a brand new facility) for a quick dinner.
6:30 PM. The ringers were back on the arena floor, each at their bell stations, ready for the initial massed rehearsal of the conference. First item on the agenda: the “official” opening of the festival, accomplished by the ringing a large bass bell. After that, one of the conference instructors led the ringers in warm-up exercises before the evening’s featured conductor ran through some basic instructions in playing together. You would think that experienced handbell ringers who all belong to bell choirs would have mastered that “ringing together” thing by now, but as a choir of 780, that phrase takes on an entirely new meaning. Counting and coordination have much different dimensions and proportions in a group that large.
8:00 PM. Ringers, chaperones, and drivers alike were treated to a concert by the New England Ringers, a concert (I regret to say) my daughter and I opted not to attend. Pressing household chores like laundry and the feeding of three resident felines beckoned loudly, as did our desire to avoid the non-air-conditioned building that served as the concert venue. Our part of New England has been pretty toasty the past few days and, with no air-conditioning in our car at the moment, the thought of pre-heating ourselves before driving home in a warm automobile was just not that appealing. Fortunately, thunderstorms and a cold front were supposed to move in, bringing some much needed relief from the blazing temperatures.
So, tomorrow will have cooler temperatures, plus a much earlier start. Festival breakfast begins at 7:00 AM; opening devotions are at 7:45 AM; and an opening mini-concert begins at 8:00 AM. After that, it is off and running with another massed rehearsal. Nothing like keeping busy. You know what they say about idle ringers: they lose their a-peal.
Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.