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E-Notes September 2014


This Month

Distinctly Bronze Associate Conductor Applications Due October 1

Deadline Approaching for Pinnacle Applications

Pre-Register for Pinnacle 2015
and Save!

Free College Student Memberships

Seeking Instructors for Handbell Musician Certification

Music Notes from John Behnke




Please note that any PAYMENTS sent to the Guild should now go to the following address:

Handbell Musicians of America
PO Box 145400
Mail Location 521
Cincinnati, OH 45250

This includes membership renewal, contributions, event registration payments, invoice payments, etc.

Beginning August 1, all GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE that DOES NOT include a check payment should should be sent to:

Handbell Musicians of America
201 E. Fifth Street
Suite 1900-1025
Cincinnati, OH 45202

National Events

Help build a pension for the Guild, by contributing to the HERITAGE FUND


If you’ve not yet seen our first ever Virtual Handbell Ensemble, have a look HERE. Help us get as much exposure as possible by commenting and sharing.

Member Rewards

20% Discount on internet orders placed at Offer expires Oct. 15, 2014. (Offer Excludes Hymnals.) In order to receive the discount, use coupon code HMA0914.



The Care and Feeding of Youth Handbell Choirs

In “Budgeting for Not-For-Profit Organizations, Michael McCrary talks about everything from revenues and expenses to potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Visit Handbell Musician Resources>>


Distinctly Bronze Associate Conductor Applications Due October 1

Only two weeks remain to submit applications for the Distinctly Bronze Associate Conductor program that was announced earlier this year.

This program will select one associate conductor each for the 2015 Distinctly Bronze East and West events. The selected applicant will have the opportunity to rehearse and conduct one piece in the Distinctly Bronze repertoire, while being mentored by the event’s music director. See all the details including application requirements and selection timeline on our website.


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Deadline Approaching for Pinnacle Applications

The Pinnacle planning committee is seeking applications for performers and faculty for Pinnacle 2015 in Dallas, Texas, July 14-18. 

Pinnacle is similar in format to our usual annual event, National Seminar, providing class sessions, HIC exhibits, concert performances, and numerous networking opportunities. However, Pinnacle offers more performance opportunities through daily Showcase Concerts and evening Feature Performances. Classes and tracks will focus on achieving performance excellence, improving handbell techniques, elements of successful concerts, business aspects of handbell ensembles, and much more.


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Pre-Register for Pinnacle 2015 and Save!

Pinnacle returns in 2015, and we are giving you the opportunity to pre-register and lock-in a discounted registration rate for the event.  Pre-register before September 30, 2014, and lock the registration fee at $330. Plus, get the opportunity to register for classes and tracks before anyone else. All those who pre-register by the deadline will also be entered in a drawing to win $300 towards airfare to the event (reimbursed after purchase receipts are presented).  See the details and pre-register today on our website today .


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Free College Student Sub-Memberships

Playing handbells is a skill they will keep long after college, whether they plan on working in the education system or faith-based community, or they plan to continue playing as a hobby in a community ensemble.  College students who are members of their school’s handbell ensemble are eligible to receive a FREE ONE-YEAR SUB-MEMBERSHIP in Handbell Musicians of America.


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Seeking Instructors for Handbell Musician Certification

Handbell Musicians of America is offering Instructor Accreditation courses for Level 1 certification courses in Handbell Techniques, Music Theory, and Conducting.  Accreditation courses are included as part of Master Series in January, 2015. Candidates must complete application materials to be considered for faculty training.

See all the details and application materials on our website.


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Music Notes from John Behnke

This Winter’s Forecast: Snow and Cold, with
Maybe Something a Little Different??

This month’s featured piece is “Good King Wenceslas,” AG35329, for 3-5 octaves of handbells. Good King Wenceslas is a Level 3 piece mainly because of the sixteenth notes of measures 55-58. These measures have a little “wow-factor” scale passage that moves from high bells to low bells and back to high bells right before the end of the piece.

This is the third Christmas piece written with no bell changes and the option to be played anywhere without tables, and even memorized. The first piece was “Joy to the World,” AG35304, followed by “Ding! Dong! Merrily on High,” AG35320. Both of these first two pieces have been very well received, consequently the need to write another one.

The idea of trying to memorize a Christmas piece came to me when the Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble played with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for their Holiday Pops concert. People sitting in expensive orchestra seats said they heard our beautiful music but could not see us because we were placed behind the orchestra. So I thought let’s find a piece that we can play on the apron of the stage. Such a piece proved to be a huge hit. The ultimate confirmation of this idea came when MHE played our memorized piece in a concert with a local vocal group. The director of the vocal group came up to me and said, “Your choir has really improved!” I was a bit surprised by the comment but said, “thank you.” We hadn’t improved; we were the exact same ringers from last year. We were just ringing a different way – without tables and from memory. People could see every move we made and that made all the difference.

These pieces are written with patterns and repetition of ideas. All of them are in ABA form. When we began to rehearse these pieces, I never said to the choir that we are going to memorize them. We just rehearsed until I could see ringers getting bored and looking up. That’s when I remarked, “it looks like you have it almost memorized.” Then I said, “do you think we could memorize it?”

This new arrangement, AG35329, combines two songs about snow and cold; “Good King Wenceslas” and “In the Bleak Midwinter.” The story goes that Wenceslas traveled from house to house, providing alms to the poor in the throes of a blizzard. When his servant could not go any further because of the deep snow, Wenceslas said to him, “walk in my footsteps and you will be able to follow me.”

“In the Bleak Midwinter” also speaks of “frosty winds and cold,” and what our gift to the newborn Savior will be. Two very compatible pieces about snow and cold.

“Good King Wenceslas” begins with two measures that can be repeated over and over as an optional procession. This allows you to walk from the tables to where you wish to play this piece, whether amidst the congregation using music stands, or on the apron of a stage playing this piece by memory. There are no bell changes in the piece.

If you didn’t know it already, “Good King Wenceslas” was arranged by me, the author of this E-Notes column. Normally I always ask the composers some questions about their piece and about themselves and their hobbies. Well, I can tell you that these pieces about snow and cold were written in hottest month of the year, July, when it’s sometimes difficult to think cool thoughts. I can also say this composer’s hobby is baseball. I used to play years ago, and I think there is nothing more delightful than an evening at the old ballpark enjoying a good baseball game with friends.


Until next month,
John Behnke, Music Editor

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