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.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Handbell Festival DAY 4

Ah, the last day of handbell festival has finally arrived. No more 4:00 AM risings; no more lunches in a college cafeteria (despite the numerous upgrades since I was an undergraduate); no more sore feet from traversing a college campus for meals and classes; no more ringing in my ears. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed supporting my daughter’s first handbell conference; I just saw a few areas for improvement (being an organizer myself), but that is the subject for another blog entry.

Thankfully, our morning began MUCH later today --- 5:30 AM, 6:30 AM, and 8:00 AM respectively for myself, Katherine the Great, and King Richard. After showers, cat feedings, and some e-mail pickup, the entire family headed to McDonalds for a quick breakfast, quite the mistake for me as my meal did not sit well, but I digress…

10:15 AM. Under orders from her director, my daughter and I purchased two new pairs of handbell gloves, one white and one black from Handbell Services, Inc. Katherine the Great had been using borrowed handwear for rehearsals, one of which had holes in the thumb. Definitely unacceptable for a festival concert; hence, the morning acquisition. At a whopping $5.00, it didn’t break the budget too badly. :-)

10:30 AM. Miss Ringer and I sat through a rehearsal of the mid-level bell choirs, the Coppers. These ringers play music that is usually at Level 3 and below. My daughter’s book partner in Shoreline Ringers suggested she attend a practice so she could see and hear the bells and the director from “the other side of the table,” so to speak. I don’t know how useful it was as an exercise; Katherine the Great spent half the practice observing the ringing floor from the rafters of the arena while her dad took photographs. Oh, well. She worked extremely hard for almost four days. Thirty minutes of “goof off” time wasn’t unreasonable.

11:30 AM. The final Bronze rehearsal. All went extremely well, especially when they added the additional percussion on Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. These advanced ringers are definitely ready to “strut their stuff,” if that is possible with a handbell. The afternoon concert audience is in for a real treat.

12:30 PM. Lunch…and fast. The Bronze choirs had only sixty minutes to walk to the Hope Commons dining hall, stand in line for their lunches, eat their meals, walk back to the arena, change into their concert dress clothes (polo shirts and khaki pants this time around), and be on the ringing floor for the final massed rehearsal. Thank goodness King Richard brought the car halfway to the cafeteria so that, for the sake of time, we could ride back to the Ryan Center with him. Miss Ringer made it with only a few minutes to spare.

1:30 PM. The final massed rehearsal with Mr. Mathis. In reality, this was more like a dress rehearsal for the entire concert. Mr. Helman, the other director, was there as well to queue his pieces in their concert order. Having heard the various groups work on their respective pieces for the past few days, I must admit they have all improved greatly, most especially the Tins. They exhibit much more confidence while ringing now. Even though they expressed frustration with Mr. Mathis at the outset, he really has helped them and they have (for the most part) exhibited a teachable spirit under his baton.

3:00 PM. Festival Concert. This was, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen. To see (and hear) 780 handbell ringers perform simultaneously was nothing short of amazing. If you ever have the opportunity to attend such an event, I highly recommend the experience. Concert program:

Fanfare Celebration by Michael Mazzatenta
Fantasy on St. Anne by William Croft
Danza by J.W. Kerr
Crosswind by Sondra K. Tucker
Psalm 9 by Carl Wiltse
Tuya Es la Gloria by Susan T. Nelson Sylvester
Morning Dance by Cathy Moklebust
Overture to Cantata 142 by J.S. Bach
Girl With the Flaxen Hair by Claude Debussy
Carol of the Bells by Arnold Sherman
Exuberant Joy by Arnold Sherman
Bwana Asifiwe by Cathy Moklebust
Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson
March Triumphale by Michael Helman*

The performance (and the festival) ended with the traditional ringing of the “closing bell.”

4:15 PM. Breakdown and loading of handbells and related equipment. King Richard filmed the Shoreline Ringers in action during this part of the day. It only took the group 15 minutes from the last concert ring to the last bell loaded in the vans. Pretty impressive! They are truly a well-oiled musical machine.

The day ended with a few of us unloading everything at Ledyard Congregational Church back in Connecticut, the current home of Shoreline Ringers. Once that task was finished, it was off to dinner at Friendly’s, a much-welcomed ending to a very rewarding experience. I, for one, cannot wait until the next festival --- in June 2009. Maybe I will see you there.

*This last piece reminded me of music from The Ten Commandments, when the Israelites left Egypt.

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