Sandy MilnerThis article written by Sandy Milner, Area 9 Oklahoma Representative

As this article is published, I know that July 31st is drawing near (or maybe even passed); but did you know that July 31st is ​Uncommon​ Musical ​Instrument Awareness Day​, a day to celebrate odd, rare, experimental, and, well,​ ​uncommon musical instruments. I think that one of our goals should be to make handbells more common than ‘uncommon.’ However, I am glad to see there is a fun holiday that perhaps includes handbells.

For some of us, handbells are common. At a recent meeting of the Area 9 board, we were waiting for our dinner to be served when the conversation, of course, centered on handbells. But not just handbells, but the uncommon things that sometimes happen as we play.

For example, as my choir was playing at a bell festival, they came upon the point where it was time to turn the page, my turn. I enthusiastically turned the page, and our music flew off the stand and onto the floor. Thankfully, our choir was at the back of the group, and I scurried around the table, retrieved the music, found our place, and we continued on. There was also the time when my group was playing at the local library for their patrons. As the song began, I felt something going on around my feet. I managed to take a peek and one of our members who happened to be sitting out for that particular song was pulling her purse out from under the table between my feet, so she could turn her phone off. Better yet, there was a time when I was playing with my community choir at an Area 9 Summit, and my mallet flew out of my hand, landing in front of our table. Our director calmly walked over, picked up the mallet, and placed it on our table all the while not losing the beat.

One of our board members told of the time when she was playing and turned two pages instead of one. As she continued playing her part, something just didn’t sound right, but she carried on until suddenly it occurred to her that she was in the wrong place! Another mentioned a time when one of his ringers began a piece with the wrong bell. The ringer continued with the wrong bell through the introduction without realizing the error. The director repeated the introduction until the ringer corrected the mistake. The song had an extended intro, and the audience did not realize the mistake.

Perhaps these incidences are not as uncommon as I think. We toss our music or mallets (but hopefully not our bells) on the floor or play a natural instead of a flat or any of the other numerous things that happen as we play. And miraculously the uncommon instrument playing common tunes becomes a thing of beauty for those who take time to listen to our music.