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The Cultural Experience

Previous Posts Cultural Excursion A big part of every International Handbell Symposium is the opportunity to learn more about the culture of the host country. For Australia, that meant a visit to Rainforestation Nature Park located in the Kuranda Rain Forest just a...

IHS Workshops

Previous Posts It's Workshop Day at IHS! From guest blogger, PL Grove It's the first of two workshop days at the International Handbell Symposium, and while that means a little bit more chaos (as bells and foam gets schlepped around), it also means more fun! The day...

IHS 2018 – Youth Festival

Previous Posts The 18th International Handbell Symposium is hosted by the Handbell Society of Australasia in the city of Cairns, Queensland in the far northeast region of Australia. Founded through the joint efforts of David Davidson of Handbell Musicians of America...

It’s Showtime!

by | Aug 10, 2018 | Symposium Blog |

By guest blogger, PL Grove

The three showcase concerts at the 18th International Handbell Symposium in Cairns had elegance, pizzazz, costumes, fun, and a few other surprises.

The first concert was held on Tuesday afternoon, soon after the start of the symposium, and the opening performance was given by the students at the Education University of Hong Kong, who depicted a drunken horse in the moon, complete with audience participation articulating the horse hooves (using plastic cups). The concert worked its way from the avant garde of the drunken horse through the more traditional music of Sibelius, Bizet and Mozart and even some pop music (performed by duets, trios, a small ensemble and full choirs), and ended with a rousing version of Czardas (arranged by Toshikazu Yoshida) performed by one of the teams of the Hong Kong Elite Youth Ringers.

The second concert was held that same day after dinner and included two teams from Japan (with impeccable runs and chords), a quartet from Hong Kong, the second team of the Hong Kong Elite Youth Ringers, a church group from Korea, and the Kinjo Gakuin University Handbell Choir (who we heard from at Sunday night’s youth festival closing concert, and who always leaves audiences stunned at their precision and speed). Repertoire ranged from Bach, Handel and standard handbell selections, to traditional Japanese music, Disney, and a Star Wars medley.

On Wednesday, we took a break in the concert schedule to head out to the Rainforestation Nature Park in Kuranda, where there were trees, animals, didgeridoos, and lots of food and dancing (but alas, no handbells).

The third and final showcase concert held on Thursday featured the performance of the inaugural International Symposium Handchime Festival. The chimers performed three pieces, culminating in a beautiful work by J. Daniel called Winter Lullaby, which featured bowed chimes and a bell tree. I had goose bumps as the final sounds hung in the air, and I’m quite certain most ringers have not heard chimes sound that lovely. Congratulations to the inaugural conductors of the chime festival: Kazuo Shimoda of Handbell Ringers of Japan, Cynthia Delaney of Handbell Society of Australasia, and our own Debbie Rice (former president and Honorary Life member) of Handbell Musicians of America.

The rest of this concert included soloist M.H. Kim of Korea, a team from the Handbell Ringers of Great Britain (with their awesome back ringing and perfect chords!), and a two-choir group from New York (that did an excellent job on William Payn’s Reunir). Three additional presentations that made the evening even more fun were the encore performances by the Hong Kong Youth Handbell Ensemble and the Hakouh University Handbell Choir, both of which performed at Sunday night’s youth festival closing concert. Reprisals of their pieces (which included Kevin McChesney’s arrangement of Hakuna Matata and Hirotaka Arai’s arrangement of Jupiter from Gustav Holst’s The Planets) brought down the house for a second time this week. And Damien Lim of Ministry of Bells (MOB) of Singapore coordinated an energetic performance of his new arrangement of Luis Fonsi’s Despacito that included ringers from Singapore (the MOB), Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, and the USA (and yes, I was one of those ringers). We all had a very fun time!

See a view of Despacito here.

All that is left now is Saturday’s massed ringing concert, where 300 ringers will play the Yellow River Concerto on handbells…no problem!