Compiled by Patty Highland, chair
In this time pandemic quarantine, and scaled back ringing experiences, some Area 9 board members want to share some of our favorite or most memorable ringing experiences. We hope these remembrances will help you think back through your own years of ringing, remembering YOUR favorite, sweet, or entertaining ringing moments, too!
Dellinda Ebeling – It is hard to identify just one memorable experience or to separate a personal experience from a group experience. Personally, I would identify my third year at Bay View under Fred Gramann, where the music was challenging but rewarding, and the performance of “Prelude on Herzliebster Jesu” brought a lot of us to tears as the last notes faded away. I also think of my church group’s first invitation to play at a community event at which we ended with Cathy Moklebust’s “The First Noel”. We all had chills, and I think our audience did, too. Except for the one year there were no concerts at the event, we’ve been invited back every year since.
Jill Fite – I have two highlights to share: Several years ago, Area 9 sponsored Hoops and Handbells. Individual participants memorized an assigned two-bell part of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. We only rehearsed together moments before a Dallas Mavericks basketball game. It was an incredible thrill to file onto the basketball court while two teams of giant basketball players warmed up for the game. We rang very well, and were rewarded with thunderous applause from the thousands of fans. That was an amazing handbell experience!
As a solo ringer, I have performed “A Musical Christmas Story” a number of times for seniors, church and civic groups. After one performance in an assisted living center, two sweet elderly women approached me and one told me how much she had enjoyed the ringing. I thanked her, and continued to visit while beginning to put away the bells. The same woman approached again and told me how much she had enjoyed the ringing. I smiled and thanked her again. She thanked me with the same words several more times. We all love hearing compliments from our audiences, even when they have Alzheimer’s!
Patty Highland – When I first moved to Texas 30+ years ago and was starting a brand new handbell director at a tiny church, the group signed up to ring at “Dickens on The Strand” in December. I remember the fun of wearing full Dickens era costume, while ringing in the parking lot in “freezing” temperatures! (OK, not freezing; but SO COLD!!!!) In recent years, one of my highlights was ringing with the Austin Handbell Ensemble at the Texas Bronze-fest, in Waco, TX. Ringing challenging music with other community and college ensembles in the final concert was such a thrill!
Russell and Adam Miller – One of our favorite memories is playing together in Boerne’s “Cave without a Name”. Russell (Area 9 secretary) and wife Sylvia had played duet concerts in the cave previously, under our “stage name” Double Ring. In 2010 however, Sylvia had to have surgery which kept her from being able to play in the cave concert. So Adam (Russell’s son, and Area 9 South TX Representative) changed the format a bit and did the concert. Instead of all bell duets, Adam brought in his marimba, and we adapted pieces to be played with bells and marimba….an excellent combination, by the way. The cave has great acoustics and is a wonderful place to play. The challenge is that there is no elevator…. only a set of 126 winding, uneven, and mostly wet steps to haul down all the bell equipment. We also had to take apart the marimba so it would fit down the steps. Those 126 steps felt more like 400 on the way back up!
Sandy Milner – One handbell memory that stays with me happened a year ago at Christmas time. Tulsa Festival Ringers had finished our last concert of the Christmas season. It was time to pack the trailer to take our equipment back to store until January. As we were loading out of the church, a lady stopped me. Although I really wanted to get things packed up, I felt as if I needed to take time and listen to her. She had brought her sister with her to our concert even though her sister is deaf. The lady was so excited and joyful, she told me ‘My sister is deaf but she heard the bells!’ If we can play where just one person is blessed by our music, then it is all worth it.
Ruth Seiwell – One of my favorite experiences was the Area 9 Handbell Cruise to the Caribbean. We spent 7 days on the high seas, with 3 of these days being ringing days. It was fantastic to ring with great people, enjoy the Royal Caribbean ship, eat the wonderful food and see the sights at three ports of call. The floors were uneven and with the seas rolling at times, the bells on the tables also rolled! It did not matter at all! We enjoyed the company of our fellow ringers and their guests, and even had fellow cruisers attend our final concert! I would do this again in a heartbeat!
I’ve also had some interesting experiences: ringing in 2 International Handbell Symposiums, with groups from around the world, and with conductors who don’t speak English or conduct differently from the norm; ringing at the Rosebud Sesquicentennial Celebration (outside) in heat that rose to 112; ringing at Dickens on the Strand; directing an ensemble in a ringing contest with a cracked C4 (It sounded like a shot gun! Another group loaned us their C4 and we continued. My CD4 ringer rang the festival with his C4 duct taped!)
Cathy Taylor – During the month of December, our local hospital in Abilene invites various musical groups to perform in the lobby at noon to entertain the hospital staff and visitors. My special needs bell choir has done this several times, but the most memorable time was the year that one of our ringers was in the hospital following some surgery. The nurses brought her down to the lobby to hear us play, and she and the other ringers were so excited to see each other. We even had her play along with us on one song as she sat in her wheelchair. That particular performance was definitely a joyful experience for us all!