4 This is what a handbell clinic looks like: the bells for our choir (or at least me and my neighbors) lined up on our table, behind the ringers from a university on the other side of the state.

You arrive and find your table and set up all your gear as shown here.

Then you go have breakfast. This was described as “a light breakfast,” but it involved fruit, pastries, sausage, biscuits, doughnuts, fruit juices, and coffee. I suppose it was light in that it did not actually include steak and eggs.

4 Then the clinician comes in and begins the clinic. This particular clinician, Kevin McChesney, was very interesting and informative. He was a fantastc director, too, particularly since he assured us that we didn’t need to count, but could simply watch him and play.

That is so much better than having to count grimly throughout, with people occasionally yelling “a-one-ie-and-a-two-ie” at you, I just can’t even tell you.

When I mentioned this to Fine Soprano, she said, “It’s just the bell-ringer way of saying 16th notes. How do you count when you sing?”

I informed her firmly that I don’t count when I sing. I just look at the director and sing. If it’s a solo, I don’t even do that. I just sing.

4No wonder I have so much trouble with bells.

See the scoreboard in the corner of the room? We were doing this in a gym. It seems to me that they could have flashed the measure numbers up there to keep us from getting lost.

Actually, I was able to find my place much better than usual, since there were hundreds of people there playing the right notes.

It even felt like playing music. It was fun.4

This guy took us through the first piece, and then we recruited our strength with a snack of cheese, cracekrs, fruit, chips, and dip. We were also given cups full of chocolate in case we began to feel faint during the Processional Rondo or something.

We returned for the second piece, and then had barbecue, more fruit, baked beans, and cookies. After the third piece, there were door prizes, and then a further snack composed of all the things we hadn’t eaten during the first few meals.

After that came the concert. I intended to play the first piece and then sit down and listen to the rest of the concert, since the first piece was the only one I could play at all competently, but I was forbidden to do so by Bigsax. I therefore rang all the way through the concert, laying out on the parts where I felt really sure that I would be wrong.

I learned lots of things yesterday. Oh, some stuff about bells, of course. However, I also learned the following things about bell-ringers:

  • They eat on a hobbit-like schedule.
  • They believe that they are the most uncool musicians in the world of music. I don’t know whether this is the impression others have of bell-ringers as well. I am, as you know, ringing bells only because I am the Slave of Duty and they needed one more ringer or would never have been able to play anything at all. But they themselves believe that ringing handbells is a sort of goofy, geeky thing that none of the cool kids would ever do.
  • The coming thing in the bellringer world is choreography. I now know how to look cool (or as cool as one can look while ringing handbells, the uncool instrument of the music world) while playing bells with mallets.

4 Here are some huge bells weighing 12 pounds. Guys who want to play these bells are advised to do weight-lifting with lights weights (like 12 pounds or less) for long periods of time to develop their stamina.

I don’t think I have ever before heard a recommendation to any musician to lift weights in preparation for playing an instrument. However, this morning I can distinctly feel my latissimus dorsi, and my bells only weigh a pound and a half.

Perhaps you have never heard handbells. In that case, click here for some sound files. It is not perhaps something you would sit down and listen to on purpose, but it is an interesting and festive sound. I am seriously thinking about getting a handbell CD for next Christmas.

As soon as I got home from the handbell festival, I went over to do some tutoring, and then I came home, reheated leftovers, looked around the appalling mess that is my house, considered doing some housework, and went to bed with a very lightweight book.

I have a lot going on today, but I hope there will be some housework in there somewhere. My first task is to sing a little gospel quartet with the choirlet, then I will be introducing the ribbon sticks to the children, then we are singing “Great Joy in the Morning,” a very fun anthem by John Parker, and then going out to lunch.

I also have squash to plant.

I’d better hurry.