This Month

Misterium Has Over 3,000 Views

David Davidson Composition Contest

Honorary Life Deadline Approaching

Secure the Future of the Guild

Music Notes from John Behnke

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Organizing a Handbell Program-Recruitment and Assimilation

“The Care and Feeding of Youth Handbell Choirs,” by Karen Thompson, takes you through the steps of creating and building a youth handbell program, specifically in the middle school and high school age ranges. Visit Handbell Musician Resources>>


Nominations are still being accepted for the Honorary Life Membership award. Deadline is Nov. 1.

GO HERE for details.

National Events


Misterium Has Over 3,000 Views—So Far!

Since its premiere just a month ago, the first ever Virtual Handbell Ensemble video has been viewed more than 3,000 times. But don’t stop sharing it with your friends through Facebook and YouTube, as we would love to see this number grow even higher.

Just over a year ago at National Seminar in Cincinnati, Ohio, we put out a video explaining an exciting new project that would bring handbell musicians from around the globe together for a unique musical collaboration. We uploaded what then appeared to be a mish-mash of musical segments and a tempo track, and asked handbell musicians to get creative and record themselves playing as many of those segments as they wanted, to be part of the project.

Organizing a Handbell Program-Recruitment and Assimilation

Over the following eight months, more than 400 handbell musicians had uploaded nearly 600 individual recordings. Many hours of organizing, sound editing, and video editing later, we have assembled the segments to complete the very first Virtual Handbell Ensemble recording.

So head on over to YouTube now to enjoy the premiere of James Meredith’s “Misterium,” and learn about the process of building the virtual performance.

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David R. Davidson Composition Contest

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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Honorary Life Deadline Approaching

We are still seeking nominations of candidates for the Honorary Life Membership Award.  This is the most prestigious honor Handbell Musicians of America can bestow.  It is designated for those individuals of the highest caliber who have made significant contributions to the art of handbell and handchime ringing.  For details about the award and a list of past recipients, follow THIS LINK.

To submit your nomination, follow the guidelines HERE.

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Secure the Future of the Guild

The campaign for an operating endowment fund for Handbell Musicians of America was launched at National Seminar in Portland last summer. Since then, we’ve received pledges and contributions totaling over $100,000.

Attendees of last week’s Distinctly Bronze stepped up to raise over $5000 through a silent auction, individual contributions, and some unique challenges. Hot items on the auction block included a commission by composer (and early Heritage Fund contributor) Michael Glasgow and “Hair Like Michele’s,” in which the winner would have their hair colored pink like Area 12 chair Michele Sharik. Following the pink hair theme, a challenge was issued that if the bid on a single item reached $1,000, executive director Jennifer Cauhorn would allow her hair to be colored pink as well. The challenge was quickly met.

But we have a long way to go to reach the national board’s goal of $1.3 million.  Details on how you can become more involved in the effort will be released in the coming weeks. Until then, learn more about the Heritage Fund and why it’s needed HERE.   You will also find more information in the “Executive Notes” column in the September/October issue of Overtones.

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Music Notes from John Behnke

Merry Christmas!

This month I’d like to say a few things about “Ding, Dong, Merrily on High,” AG35320, for 3-5 octaves of handbells. The piece was written to be a very nice Level 3 arrangement of this popular Christmas tune, BUT it also has the possibility to be played by memory. There are no bell changes, and there is no need for tables in order to play it. Without tables, a bell choir can play in the aisles, the front, the back, the balconies, anywhere they like.

I’ve been amazed that when my groups have played a piece from memory, people think we have improved. One local choir director came right up to me after our warm-up and said, “Boy! Have you guys improved. ” We hadn’t. It was the same ringers, playing a Level 3 piece; the only difference was that we did something different. We memorized the piece.

To memorize a piece, let me offer some suggestions:

  1. When you start rehearsing the piece, don’t say we are going to memorize it. Just learn the music and see how things come together.
  2. If they learn the piece quickly, then begin repeating one section over and over again. Hopefully you will find the ringers getting bored and start looking up. If you see that most of the group is doing this, you can say “it looks like you almost have this memorized.” The rehearsal letters in the music have been put in there to identify those sections. Repetition is needed to memorize. Hopefully the many musical patterns in this specially-written music will help the memorization process.
  3. For the ringers having difficulty with the memorization, they or you may have to write out their individual part and “decipher the code.” What I mean is that, often when you write out their individual part, they will discover their patterns in the music and can then start to memorize these rhythmic patterns.
  4. For those ringers having difficulty, you may have to learn their part and, as the group is playing, stand in front of them and help them remember their “code.”
  5. You can also give these ringers the recording from the 2013 AGEHR Publishing promotional CD or give the web link where the piece can be heard. The recording can be a practice track for the ringers.

Yes, it takes practice; yes it is different; but yes, it’s possible and yes, it’s quite exciting the first time you play it without any music in the midst of your church or rehearsal space. It’s freeing.

If the memorizing does not happen for your choir, you still have a very nice Level 3 arrangement of “Ding, Dong, Merrily on High” to play for church or for your Christmas concert. If it does happen, I bet someone will say to you, “Boy! Have you guys improved.”

Here are two web links of AG35320, “Ding, Dong, Merrily on High,” for your use.

GO HERE to listen to a recording. If you wish to see someone playing the piece, here are the Handbell Ringers of Japan “Assistants” playing “Ding, Dong, Merrily on High” under the direction of Lee Afdahl. It’s not all memorized, but it’s played at a quick clip, and it’s very exciting.

Merry Christmas a little early!

Until next month,

John Behnke
Music Editor

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