This article was written by Ruth Seiwell, Area 9 ChairRuth Seiwell

Handbells are a musical instrument. Handbells are cast of bronze. Handbells often mean working with an ensemble. Are handbells a sanctuary? What are handbells to you? Consider ringing handbells as your sanctuary; your escape; your special place. Most of us lead busy, stressful lives, and many don’t take the time to rest, relax, and unwind. Handbells can become a sanctuary. The time spent in rehearsal or music preparation is special time concentrating on something you love. It is good to shut out the world and study the music as you prepare for rehearsal. The rehearsal itself is also a special time to lose oneself in the music, the technique, the musicality and the relationship within the ensemble. (A martellato might even help work out frustration!) The result is forgetting the stresses of family, work, and other stresses life brings. Although rehearsal itself can create stress, it is a different kind of stress. When working a difficult passage, it takes great concentration to master the section and results in great satisfaction when you master the passage. Making music within an ensemble brings such a wonderful feeling when everything just ‘clicks.’

I challenge each ringer and director who reads this to think of the ringing experience as your sanctuary. It may take a shift in thinking, but the result will be well worth the effort. More times than I can count as conductor, I have said to my ensembles: ‘Leave your day behind as you walk through the door.’ The result is amazing! The ringers are more focused, more relaxed, and happier. I use the same idea myself as I enter the rehearsal room either as a ringer or a conductor and find that I do so much better. The days I simply can’t manage to leave it all outside the door, I have a much less successful rehearsal.

Handbells, handbell ringing, and working with and within ensembles are my therapy. Is it your therapy as well?