This Month

David R. Davidson Composition Contest Announced

Master Series 2014 – Options for Every Handbell Musician!

Member Spotlight: Jean Hillman

“Misterium” Coming Soon

Music Notes from John Behnke

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Organizing a Handbell Program-Recruitment and Assimilation

Music educator Marilyn Lake brings you “Handchime Curriculum for Schools,” based on the nine content standards in music education (MENC). Handbell Musician Resources are free to all current Handbell Musicians of America members.

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National Events


David R. Davidson Composition Contest Announced

The third David R. David Composition Contest is now open and accepting submissions.

The Davidson Composition Fund was created in October 2009 to encourage the composition of original works for advanced handbell ensembles.  Works selected for awards from this fund will illustrate the high musical standards embodied by Maestro David Davidson.

The winning composition will be premiered at Distinctly Bronze East in October 2014.

See all the details and submission guidelines here:

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Master Series 2014 – Options for Every Handbell Musician!

Master Series returns in 2014 offering four class options for handbell musicians of all levels:

  • Master Class in Conducting with Dr. William Payn – one-on-one mentoring and personal attention from Dr. Payn will help hone your conducting skills and make you a more effective conductor.
  • Master Class in Composition with Sondra Tucker – a combination of group discussion and independent composing time with personal instruction from Sondra Tucker will take your composing to the next level.
  • Handbell Director Boot Camp with Carolynn and William Mathis – a must for all handbell directors, this course covers everything you need to know to develop a successful handbell program at your church or school, or in your community.
  • Certification Track: Handbell Techniques I & II PLUS Music Theory I & II with Michele Sharik and Michael Glasgow – the perfect opportunity to complete two levels of two subjects from our Handbell Musician Certification program with master teachers Michele Sharik and Michael Glasgow

All event activities will take place at the Cincinnati Airport Marriott, January 31 through February 3, 2014. Event registration is now open.  See all the details and register today here:

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Member Spotlight: Jean Hillman

I have been ringing bells for close to 40 years in bell choirs and a quartet.  But it was only 12 years ago, at the age of 70, I started solo ringing.  There were probably 3 things that brought this about.  First, my daughter, Ellen Woodard, had been ringing solos for some years and became very good at it; she encouraged me to try.  Second, our new music and arts coordinator at church encouraged me to try and offered to accompany me, even if it was just to ring solos for our own amusement. Third, I wanted to buy a CD of Christine Anderson’s solo ringing to give my daughter as a Christmas gift.  In my e-mail to Christine, I mentioned I admired all who solo rang and would love to also do it, but unfortunately, at the age of 70, felt I was too old.  Christine e-mailed me back saying her father had taken up solo ringing at about that age, and I should “go for it.”

I started with Christine Anderson’s red book (Songs for the Solo Ringer). The first pieced I chose was “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” and I worked so hard on it, making appropriate marks as to how and when to change bells, that by the time I was to ring for the first time in church I practically had it memorized.  Even now I can “ring” it while going to sleep, with all the right changes.

As time went on and I worked on more pieces, it became second nature how and when to switch bells. That made it possible for me to sight read solos fairly easily.  I guess when one reaches this point, one is really a solo ringer.  I have several favorites, but “Morning Joy,” arranged by Christine Anderson, which combines “Morning Has Broken” and “Ode to Joy,” will always be at the top of my list.  A close second is “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” arranged by S. Ford.

I will be 82 on August 31, and I have been asked to ring a solo in the church I attend in the summer the next Sunday.  If the church can borrow the bells, I will ring “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

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Watch for “Misterium” Coming Soon

Organizing a Handbell Program-Recruitment and Assimilation

Attendees of National Seminar in Portland, Oregon, were treated to an exclusive preview of the first Virtual Handbell Ensemble’s performance of James Meredith’s “Misterium.”

Around 435 individual handbell musicians from 27 states and seven countries, including Australia, Canada, England, Estonia, Hong Kong, Japan, and the U.S., submitted over 575 recordings.

The project will soon be complete and will premiere on YouTube and the Handbell Musicians of America website.

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Music Notes from John Behnke

Happy New Year!

Yes, I know that January 1 is the actual start of a new year, but for educators, church musicians, and parents, the new year seems to begin around Labor Day.  That’s when school starts up again, church and handbell choirs resume their practices, and the summer vacations are over.   With the start of this new year, you can either be depressed that summer is over or you can approach the new year “With a Joyful Spirit.”   I’m hoping you choose “With a Joyful Spirit.”

This month’s highlighted piece is Paul McKlveen’s “With a Joyful Spirit,” AG35319. It’s a Level 3 piece and is the winner of the 2013 Area 2 Festival /Conference Composition Contest.

I asked Paul what inspired him to write this piece and he said, “I actually wrote it several years ago and had submitted it to an earlier Area 2 composition contest, but it wasn’t chosen as the winner.  When I decided to enter it last year, I did some editing to make it a little shorter and tweaked it as well.  As I recall, I wrote it because I wanted to write something that had repeated notes on the offbeat similar to what Sallie Lloyd did with her original work ‘Reverberations.’  For example, check out measures 13 through 32 and look at the B4/C5 part.  I really liked the sense of drive and momentum in “Reverberations” and wanted to write something that would convey the same idea.”

I asked him what his favorite parts of it were or if there were unique features that we should know about?  He said, “I have a couple favorite parts, and my very favorite would have to be the building up of texture that occurs from measures 41 through 44 only to have it suddenly drop off to mezzo-piano while changing keys.  One item of interest is that I take the melody in measures 13-15, copy it to measures 25 through 28, and copy the melody in measures 5 through 12 and also place that beginning at measures 25.  Also, since ringers love playing different techniques, I made sure to use quite a variety of them throughout the work.

Paul said, “I currently have a part-time job where I serve as the handbell program coordinator at First Presbyterian Church in Neenah, Wisconsin.  In this role I direct one handbell choir and participate in/lead a handbell quartet.  I also volunteer as the website administrator for Area 7, and continue to compose and arrange, when time permits, handbell music.”

And what does Paul do in his free time?   Well, he said, “Actually, my involvement in handbells is my hobby.  I have a B.S. in computer science and a B.S. in mathematics, and I’m currently employed in the Information Technology department at Schneider National Inc.”    If you don’t know, Schneider National is a huge trucking firm that sends orange trucks all over the country.

My ringers will testify to the fact that this piece is just plain fun and puts one in a joyful spirit.   It’s filled with techniques, as Paul said, which explains why it won the Area 2 composition contest.   Congratulations, Paul, and thanks for sharing your insights with us.

If you are an educator, a church musician, or a parent, Happy New Year!   May you approach this new year with a positive and joyful spirit.   And maybe Paul’s new piece may just be the one to keep you in that good mood throughout the year.   Heck, how can you not be a good mood, when you ring bells?    Please take a listen to AG 35319, With a Joyful Spirit by Paul McKlveen here at

Until next month,

John Behnke
Music Editor

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