Sandy Milner

by Sandra Milner

Oklahoma Representative

This time of quarantine, mask wearing, and social distancing has been a challenge for all of us in different areas of our lives. One thing we have learned is that ringing handbells is possible!

Early in the pandemic when buildings were closed and our bells were locked up, we learned that we can still practice our ringing skills. If you happened to attend the virtual class at National Seminar this year, Nick Hansen showed us how to use objects around the house as ‘bells’ for practicing. Using spoons, hairbrushes, and other things, gives you an opportunity to mark your music, study your score, and problem solve.

All our lives we have been taught to share but now is not the time to share. We are faced with trying to solve the problem of playing that elusive accidental. In Kevin McChesney’s book “Limericks, Lessons, and Life In Handbells”, he says there are nine ways to get that accidental. However, during this time of pandemic, that number is reduced to only eight. Sadly, we have to eliminate ‘share’.

Several of our much loved composers have shared with us a list of musical selections that eliminate the need for bell sharing. The music selection assistant on Handbell World has an option to search for 12 bell music. Choristers Guild has 8 bell music with accompaniment. Also, this might be a time to stretch your handbell ringing skills to include learning a piece to play on a bell tree (Barbara Brocker would be your resource for this) or learning a solo piece (Christina Anderson would be your resource for this).

As you begin to explore these music selection options, please consider the other advantages we have discovered about ringing while wearing a mask. For one thing, you can count silently and move your lips! Your director will not have a clue! Also, when you grimace because you played the wrong note or missed your note – no one can see! Unless you use your entire face when you grimace.

Another way to ring while social distancing is the virtual ensemble. There are some tricks to get things lined up and in sync. One trick when recording your part is to clap in the frame at a predetermined count before the music begins to help the tech person sync the parts. We have also learned new phrases like ‘click tracks’ and discovered new apps to help with editing.

Ringing handbells is challenging, possibly more so during these difficult times. With a little creativity, we can practice our ringing skills, stretch ourselves to ring solos, ring in small ensembles, ring bell trees, or ring in a virtual choir. Whatever you decide, keep ringing, keep learning, and keep sharing the music of handbells!