Current HMC Board of Directors
The Handbell Musicians of Canada Board
Each month we’ll be featuring a few words from one of our board members so you can get to know your national representatives. Check back each month to meet us all!
If you ask a ringer “why handbells?” you will hear a great variety of answers, but perhaps the most common answer will be related to how handbells give them a sense of community. Friendships from across generations are formed in the safe space created in rehearsals. While this is true for all musical groups, handbells are a special instrument that encourages deep inter-relational connection because, with the exception of solo ringers, it takes a team to ring one instrument. When one of the team is absent, their presence is missed musically each time their notes are missing and that reminder of their absence feeds into missing them personally as well. “F5 isn’t there - where’s Annie? I miss Annie!”
Bells also have lots of equipment! Set-up, take down, maintenance, and moving bells from place to place are a shared responsibility for most choirs. The choir works as a team to take responsibility and ownership for the gear and each other. And then there is what happens during the music. When playing, ringers must work together - sharing bells (in non-COVID times) and helping find creative solutions to logistical issues in the music. In Britain, handbell choirs are called “teams” and it’s no wonder. All of this working together creates a community of musicians who care for each other as they work to make beautiful music.
In worship, the bell choir demonstrates to the church an example of what it is like to act in community. The congregation is engaged visually as well as auditorily as the bell choir works together. As the handbell choir comes forward from the congregation to ring, the congregation feels represented in the music making. Although this all happens very organically, handbell choirs should be aware of this and make sure they are always showing the best ways to work and care for one another.
I wish you all the joy of ringing in community as you share, work, learn, grow and lead in your various contexts!
I was first introduced to handbells back in the 90s at a church conference workshop. After our two hour workshop and our little Level One performance afterward, a member of our congregation bought a three-octave set of bells for us and the music director informed me that I’d be directing the group, because I had “more experience” with handbells than him. Talk about jumping into the deep end!
I directed that group for 17 years and we performed for two church services every other Sunday, plus every service in Advent, two yearly concerts, and at least two festivals per year. We were busy, but we loved it.
When I moved to Calgary (I married a Canadian who refused to live in the Texas heat), I found a handbell group to join and eventually helped launch the Bow River Handbell Musicians Society, which currently has four performance groups. I play in three of them.
All of that came to a screeching halt when Covid-19 put a stop to rehearsals and performances, though. Like many, I felt there was a handbell-shaped hole in my life that needed filling. At the same time, the need to stay home caused me to seek out diversions that could be done in solitude - and Lego came to the rescue. I rekindled my love of the little bricks from my childhood, bolstered by Lego’s recent focus on appeasing their adult fans. It wasn’t long before the pile of bricks inspired me to combine that hobby with handbells.
The first thing I did was create a little diorama of one of our performing groups. Bow River Bells came to life in plastic, with Lego “minifigs” representing our members as closely as I could get and some out-of-the-box thinking regarding the instrument, as Lego don’t currently have a handbell piece. The smaller bells are “inverted cone with bar” in tan and the bass bells are “goblet” pieces in pearl gold with the bases snipped off.