Gems Gleaned From Summit 2012 Classes

by Dixie Rutledge, Director
Brazos Bells Handbell Ensemble (Brenham, TX)

Sometimes, when you are heavily involved in sometime like handbells, you can be spread thin and feel that you need rejuvenation. I felt that way. I had read about the Area 9 Summit 2012, but dismissed it because of the expense.  Three days before the deadline, I learned about a scholarship that was offered that would pay the registration fee. I decided to give it a try, and, much to my surprise, I became the next recipient of Area 9’s Marvin E. Reecher Memorial Scholarship.

So, what about it? Was it worth going to the Handbell Musicians of America Area 9 Summit 2012? I certainly think it was, but read on to see if you agree.

First of all, the event was well organized and ran smoothly–a BIG plus!  And, the Summit offered the following:
1.  Lots of classes – there wasn’t enough time to take them all.
2.  Ringing opportunities in the Read and Ring sessions.
3.  Handbell-products vendors–easy shopping for handbell supplies or music
4.  Excellent concerts:

Bell Tree Concert by Barbara Brocker
Brookwood Handbell Choir
Houston Bronze Handbell Ensemble
Vibre Quartet
East Texas Handbell Ensemble

5.  Mass-rung rehearsals by two excellent clinicians:  Michael Glasgow and Beth Judd.
6.  Sunday morning church service on Sunday morning, with processional by Northwest Hills UMC.
7.  Wrap-up final concert by all ringers with a surprisingly large audience.

The following is a synopsis of the classes I attended:

Every Technique in the Book – Sueda and Grace Luttrell

This was a demonstration / hands-on class of the proper way to do handbell articulations written in current handbell scores.  Basic 4-in-hand maneuvers were included in this class.

Rhythm’s Gonna Get You – Michael Glasgow

This was a hands-on class so not much opportunity to take notes.

1.  Michael used a floor game involving singing and movement (passing a toy in synch with the rest of the group) to demonstrate rhythm.

2.  Using a worksheet of rhythm patterns, we clapped and discussed various rhythm patterns.  The time blocks of a measure are equal, but notes can be arranged in various ways, making various rhythm patterns.

3.  Discussed stress beats in the various time meters: Michael commented if ringers will ring with proper stress emphasis, the audience should be able to identify which time  meter is being played.

Bells in Contemporary Worship– Patrick Murphy

This was a hand-on class.  Patrick showed us how, instead of depending on sheet music, we could use the guitar tab chords to ring praise songs. Patrick pointed out:

1.  Handbells ARE a contemporary worship instrument.
2.  Ask to be part of the musical worship team.
3.  Minimizing the amount of equipment and accessories will help handbells blend in.

Patrick had a very helpful handout with list of bells in the various guitar tab chords.

Bells in Worship – Diane Sorrels

This class involved discussion of the different ways to use handbells in a church worship service.  Some examples:

1.  Processionals.
2.  Bell trees playing melody notes or a descant.
3.  Small ensembles playing either the melody or descants to the worship songs.

Students rang some worship songs.

Making the Most of Mallets – Jayne Brown

This was a hands-on class on malleting.  Jayne gave an overview on:

1.  The different kinds of mallets.
2.  How to select the proper mallets for your bells.
3.  Correct way to mallet.

Students then went through malleting exercises and music to reinforce teaching.

The RingLeader – Conducting 101  (3 sessions) – Ruth Seiwell

Session One – Ruth led a discussion of:

1.  The leadership role of a conductor.
2.  Tasks of the conductor such as selecting music, assigning parts, etc.
3.  Importance of the director knowing the correct way to do the handbell articulations.
4.  Importance of score preparation.

Session Two – Discussion and demonstration of ways to conduct:

1.  Various time signatures.
2.  Dynamics.
3.  Breaks in the music.

For review, students were given batons to practice each of the patterns.

Session Three –  This was a hands-on session, with students taking turns conducting a piece of music while the rest of the students rang. After each turn, Ruth gave helpful tips.

Oh! the Drama – Meredith Gaines

This was a lecture-only class so I was able to take a lot of notes.

* A Performance is an exchange of emotion and connection between ringers and audience

* Ringers need to work on memorization so they can internalize phrasing and have opportunity to connect with the audience

*  In rehearsals, LISTEN,LISTEN, LISTEN.  Warm up, using various note values, and have ringers close eyes once they start.  Better accuracy.

*  Just like actors, Directors and Ringers need to “learn their lines”. Be familiar with your notes.

*  From the first run-through, pay attention to dynamics, phrasing, emotion of song.  May need to add breath marks so all will “breathe” together.

*  Rhythm – bouncing ball, processionals, meter changes while walking

*  Rehearsals – every moment spent should have a motive or purpose behind it

*  Verisimilitude – remind ringers of the purpose of the song to aid in phrasing

*  Every song tells a story:  tell the background of song, play recording and ask ringers what they hear

*  Never forget – each concert is someone’s first and someone’s last –so play to the audience.

*  Video your group in concert.  Replay a section but turn off sound. Ask which song are you ringing?