Current HMC Board of Directors
The Handbell Musicians of Canada Board
Musings From the 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!
Ask someone to name a famous orchestra. How about a famous choir? Maybe even a concert band? Civic, religious, and education institutions boast about their musical ensembles and many have well-earned renown. Ask someone to name a famous handbell ensemble…. well…. hm…who?
Group music making - school bands, church choirs, professional orchestras - have traditionally been a strong part of our society. Many in fact have national or international reputations, even among non-musical people. How many handbell ensembles fit that category? Even other musicians may not know that handbells exist, much less non-musicians. It’s time to change that. It’s time to make handbells part of mainstream ensemble music.
I’m John Hooper and my musical passion is expressing more than notes. I was part of founding the handbell program at Concordia University of Edmonton, including Jubiloso! Bells of Concordia. Most recently, I have served as an international examiner and adjudicator across all musical mediums and have heard the widest range of performances imaginable. I have been dumbstruck by well-studied musicians who played so many impressive notes, but missed the overall point. I have also been awestruck by grade one kids making incredible music with whole notes and half notes!
As we progress further into the 21st century, I hope that handbells can be perceived with greater musical merit. How can we assert ourselves as musicians? Primarily, we must think of ourselves as musicians. In fact, our organisation’s name - Handbell Musicians of Canada - reflects that idea. Whether novices or professionals, we need to believe what we do is an expressive art form (even if we do it “just for fun”). This means pursuing more than most of the right notes at most of the right times. This means inspiring our listeners to hear beyond beautiful tone and sense artistic passion. This means performing for audiences so they look beyond ringers’ well-meaning-ness and see expressive musicians. This means going beyond quick-studies and rushed preparation to dedicate ourselves to discipline and detail. This means having visions of excellence, of expression, of expectations similar to the renowned orchestras, choirs and concert bands. We can then speak of handbells along with the best of other famous musical groups. Who, indeed!
You Look Like You Are Having Fun!
I love making music, but especially making music with other musicians! It’s part of my DNA! We all know that making music is HARD WORK! It takes time, dedication, practice, and know-how. My name is Lisa Kyriakides and I live in Newmarket, Ontario. I have been a musician all my life – as a teacher, conductor, performer, and clinician. I started getting involved with handbells about 12 years ago and haven’t stopped since. I direct 2 handbell choirs, a vocal choir, perform in several handbell ensembles and am heavily involved with our Provincial Handbell Guild (OGEHR).
Now I want you to think about something for a minute. When you and the ringers around you are performing, what does the audience see? Do you look like you are enjoying yourself, or do you look very serious, with your head buried in the music? What impression are you leaving with your audience members? Are you communicating with them that making music is a joyful experience?
I talk to my ringers and singers about this issue all the time. I have told them that one of the best compliments I can receive when I am conducting or performing is when someone tells me I look like I am having fun. In fact, I told one of my choirs to smile (or at least not frown) so often, that for one rehearsal, they all showed up with smiles pasted on popsicle sticks that they could hold up in front of their faces. Too funny!
Music is all about communication with your audience. Handbells are such a visual instrument with great potential to convey the musical message through movement. Next time you are ringing, try and think about what your audience is seeing. Will someone come up to you after your performance and tell you they enjoyed watching you perform? I hope so!
For those of you who may not know me, I am the current Chair of your HMC. I began ringing handbells as a teenager and have been hooked ever since. Though I’ve been fortunate enough to visit most corners of this diverse country – mainly due to the various handbell festivals, workshops, and symposia I’ve attended over the years – my home base in is Penticton, BC.
My favourite part of handbells is the sense of connection it fosters on so many different levels. There’s the connection between the body that produces the sound, the mind that reads the notes on the page, and the heart that interprets and expresses the music. There’s the connection between the audience and the musician, that special energy that vibrates through the concert hall during a performance. There’s the extra special connection that happens when a gathering of ringers all inhales at the same moment, and exhales the marvelous music that comes out of the cohesive, whole artist that they collectively become.
And even more special is the connection that forges instantly wherever I am in the world whenever I meet someone new and they say, “You ring bells?? Me too!”