Current HMC Board of Directors
The Handbell Musicians of Canada Board
I seem to have this river of music running through my life. I grew up with two musical parents. I did all the usual – school & church voice choir, piano lessons, band, 2 music degrees, church music director, UC Voices United songbook team, taught piano, cappella quartet and taught school music in several provinces. Then, in my early thirties my husband was transferred to Germany, and for the first time ever I heard handbells - a six octave handbell choir from the USA giving performances while touring. I was captivated.
My name is Lynn Boothroyd. I am one of the newest members on the Board. I love directing handbell choirs, teaching technical skills, subbing for other choirs, taking my choirs on the road to Festivals in Canada & the USA and to ringing opportunities in my community. I am a past President of OGEHR and began The Directors Roundtable for handbell directors in eastern Ontario.
Bells are such a deceptively easy instrument to ring. You get the right note every time. Anyone can do it. But the more you ring, the more you learn about these beautiful instruments and how to make beautiful sounds, in so many different ways. And unless you are a solo performer, it is an instrument where you make music as a team, learning to work together, to get beyond the notes, into making music. And in the process, you make amazing friends.
And I know this firsthand, from all my travels with bells. I just moved to Nova Scotia after spending 35 years in Ottawa. And the first thing I did was to contact the handbell choirs, where I am now ringing with new choirs. Instant family!!
I come from a long line of a musical family. My grandmother could play her upright piano with gusto. My father was a United Church organist and my sister is an Anglican organist. My brother plays the trumpet and all his children play an instrument. My sister’s children all play instruments as well. At Christmas when they all got together, we had a great brass band playing Christmas carols.
You will notice that I was never part of that musical group nor were my children. It seems the music stopped with me. I took music in school and got my grade two certificate. But playing an instrument never appealed to me, I tried piano, violin and bass clarinet. In University, I took a music appreciation course and discovered I enjoyed listening and studying music rather than playing it.
But then handbells came into my life. I started with my own church bell choir. Lynn Boothroyd was next to me. One evening she asked me to join another choir which she was directing. That was over ten years ago. I am now very involved with the handbell world. This is my third year being on the Festival committee for Ontario and now I have joined the HMC Board. I love playing handbells and chimes. Hopefully, I will be able to continue for many more years.
There is such a wonderful sense of community as individuals come together to make music in a handbell ensemble. I experienced some amazing school handbell groups when I was in music education at the University of Minnesota. The musicians shared their music with expertise and with such a sense of joy. It has been my desire ever since to lead a school handbell ensemble.
When I accepted the music teacher role at my current school, I was so pleased to find out that they had handbells. I made a call to Morna-June Morrow – our renowned Canadian handbell specialist who just happens to live in Winnipeg. ☺ She invited me to learn about handbells by having me attend one of her rehearsals. Thus began my journey with handbells. That was 16 years ago. I have also had the privilege of attending a summer handbell program at the International Music Camp at the Peace Gardens. Monica McGowan and Patsy Andrews-Vert were the clinicians.
During the Pandemic, I began to explore the possibility of building my own handbell tree. With a little research and some help from my son, we built a handbell tree. I played a solo on the handbell tree for my school. I am so excited to see children grow in their ability to confidently express themselves through making music and playing handbells.
There is something magical about ringing handbells, and ringing this incredible instrument successfully as a team is exceptionally satisfying.
Since I started using handbells as a part of my music education programs in schools and communities, I haven’t ever thought of stopping. Ringing is simply great for team and community building, as well as for music learning and skill development. I continue to be enamoured with how ringing bells enhances our own (and our audience’s) aural experience with the visual movements we make. It’s putting sound into space, showing the music as we ring.
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed all aspects of ringing, in front of the table directing, as well as behind and off the table. I love to introduce others to this fantastic activity and volunteering my time to the Handbell Musicians of Canada is an extension of this passion.
It would be hard to imagine my life without bells, they’ve been an integral part of it for over the last 40 years!
Bells were introduced into my high school in the late seventies by our then band teacher Mr. deFrece, now a retired U of A professor who still directs the University’s handbell choir. As green as we were, that first Christmas concert where the bells played was magical, the audience loved them and I was hooked. Throughout university I rang with the Robertson-Wesley United Church handbell choir and subbed for other choirs. I played with Fred Merrett’s Bronze Harmony and was a founding member of Jubiloso, Bells of Concordia University. Along the way I’ve been on the ALGEHR board and the Robertson-Wesley Music Society board and am a founding board member of Classic Bronze. I also had the privilege to be the registrar/treasurer for the 1992 International Handbell Symposium (IHS) in Edmonton.
Handbells have given me the chance to travel locally – Handbell Discoveries and Ringing Links – to internationally: IHS in Japan (1986), Australia (2006), and Vancouver (2016); and a European Handbell tour in 2017.
I like the fact that audiences always love the bells, you can play wrong notes, have a piece go terribly wrong and they still love the music. They are so fulsome in their thanks for the playing, that it’s almost a humbling experience. You want to play well and when a piece is going well in performance there is that feeling of oneness with the choir, there’s this sense of accomplishment. What a feeling of camaraderie! That’s what happens in a bell choir, people from different walks in life come together to create great music and great friendships.
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!
I was a child when I first saw my cousins from Peterborough, Ontario ring handbells in church one Christmas. I remembered being instantly spellbound, thinking how lucky they were to be playing an instrument so cool and beautiful as that! That attraction and feeling of desire to one day ring myself remained until my home church started a handbell program in 2010. Since then, handbells have become my happy obsession!
I have been fortunate to have rung with amazing mentors, directed a youth handbell choir, dabbled in conducting, travelled to many Provincial and Area Festivals, National Seminars, the International Handbell Symposium 2016, and at the Great Christmas Ring at Carnegie Hall NYC in 2019. I have served on the Ontario Guild of English Handbell Ringers Board of Directors, acted as OGEHR Central-East Area Representative, planned workshops, Area Playdates and Masterclasses, having a special interest in program development, bringing people together and promoting the art of handbell ringing. Most recently I have become captivated with Belltrees and was honoured with being the Forest Ranger organizing a magnificent 19 membered Bell Tree Forest at the 2023 OGEHR Festival.
I am a handbell membership hobbyist holding international memberships in addition to my home province, to satisfy my curiosity and interest into what fellow ringers are doing around the world. Whenever I become involved to support, plan and promote handbell ringing, I am always reminded handbell people are some of the best people, and when we get together and share ideas and thoughts, AMAZING things start to happen and develop for all!
Where the Magic Happens
I grew up with music around me. Often, my mom would be invited to sing at churches and when I was 3, she had been asked to sing for a church celebrating its reopening after a major renovation. There were over 500 people in attendance so it was a big deal! All the way there, I asked if I could sing with her, but of course, she said no. Once we arrived, however, I approached the Pastor and asked him instead, and he said yes! I remember that feeling of excitement and pride and have since realised how important that day was for me, my mom and those in attendance.
When I was 9, a bell choir came to perform at our church and although I had started with courage at a young age, I was now quite shy. However, I stepped out of my comfort zone and asked how old I’d have to be to join their choir. The director had taken notice of my family sitting together and told me to come to their next rehearsal with my mom, who had also asked. We performed for many church services and did guest performances for others. I'd invite my friends to church to hear the bells, but I remember thinking how cool it would be to play at my school and share the gift of bells outside the church. A couple of years later, a new director joined us and she did just that. She reached out into the community and we performed in nursing homes, retirement homes, children’s hospitals, and various malls during the Christmas season. We were invited to perform on TV as a special feature on several newscasts and as we became more popular we were invited to perform for weddings, company Christmas events, parties, the Toronto Christmas market, Santa Day in a neighbouring town, and we were even invited to make a Swiss Chalet commercial. Feeling pretty confident with our performance opportunities year round, we recorded a Christmas CD and sold it at our different events to help support our handbell program.
Over the years, other opportunities have continued to knock… When I was 18, a small group of us performed bells in an episode of “Wind at My Back”, a spin off from “Road to Avonlea” and even more recently, in a Hallmark Movie, “Christmas Bells are Ringing”.
So, as we move toward planning, booking and performing for live audiences again, I encourage you to go out of your comfort zone and reach out to other venues and bring the joy of music to the community.
That is where the magic happens.
The music you hear with your eyes
Despite starting piano lessons “later” than the typical child (because apparently I had “no potential to play the accordion so might as well send her to piano lessons” - please don’t ask, but the accordion was my father’s dream lol), I went on to become a life-long musician. When I met my first handbell in 1984, I had already been a private music teacher for over 10 years and had played in bands and orchestras for over 8. The concept of a musical instrument that required more than one pair of hands to play it absolutely intrigued and fascinated me.
Since then, I have enjoyed learning everything about bells and sharing my knowledge and passion with others from both sides of the table to the business end of governance and event management including everything from youth, provincial, national festivals, and international symposia. Because my accordion-loving father convinced me I could never make a living as a musician, I dabbled in a variety of careers ranging from teaching French Immersion, Japanese and fitness, travelling the world to recruit international students to business and fund development while living in 10 different homes across 4 provinces. An aviation geek (yes, I went to Ground School!), a hiking enthusiast, a language nerd and fur-Mom to the goofiest Bernese Mountain Dog, I am a true-blue Gemini who gets distracted easily and as such, am interested in everything! Throughout it all, music has remained the one constant and stable aspect of my life. While I find nothing more satisfying than nailing an especially challenging musical passage (with stand-mates who feel like just an extension of you), my true love is small ensemble or solo ringing where performances can become a true delight for the eyes as well as the ears…because if you ask me, handbell ringing, after all, is the music you hear with your eyes…
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!”
If this feels like déjà-vu, it’s because I was on the inaugural board of HMC and I wrote one of these musings back then.
I took a year off after my term was up to do some serious, post-covid travelling (15 countries!) and now I’m back home and jumping back in with both feet.
My handbell experience, which spans three decades now, also began with a “jumping in with both feet” feeling, as I was told by my church music director that we had been gifted a 3-octave set of bells and that I would be directing the group, since I was the only one with any handbell experience. (My “handbell experience” was a couple of hours at a church conference workshop once.)
Not knowing any better, that group ended up with a horrific performance schedule - we played Christmas services every other Sunday, plus every Sunday in Advent, plus Christmas and Easter concerts, and at least two festivals every year. I can imagine fellow directors picking their jaws up off the floor right now! It was insane, yes, but we loved it.
In my previous “musing”, I mentioned my passion for all things Lego, which along with handbells makes up 2/3 of my trinity of passions. The third passion is seeking out and riding every rollercoaster I can find.
Up here in Canada, it’s not as common to find people who are avid coaster enthusiasts unless you live near Canada’s Wonderland. I grew up in Houston (Texas), though, and we had a large amusement park of our own. In the summer of 1972, they opened their first adult-sized coaster with the oddball name of Dexter Frebish’s Electric Roller Ride. Dexter Frebish was an actual person who gained some notoriety by going down a ski jump in a covered wagon. If the name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because there is a pop band called “Dexter Freebish” (yes, named after the rollercoaster) who had a minor hit a few years back with a song called “Leaving Town”. If you were a big fan of the band, you might’ve seen this photo on their website for awhile
That’s me, age five, with cousin Larry just before I took my first-ever ride on a rollercoaster. I learned two things that day:
1. I’m afraid of heights.
2. I’m afraid of coasters.
I don’t remember the ride itself, but I do remember looking over the side of the car about halfway up the hill and completely freaking out. The image of that landscape instantly blurring with tears is etched into my mind forever. The next thing I remember is my mom’s voice telling the ride attendants as we pulled back into the station at the end of the ride, “no, he’s not hurt, he’s just scared” as they all rushed to the car. Apparently, it was quite the scene.
That day actually also taught me a third thing: knowledge erases fear. I was amazed that this thing, this inanimate machine, could have such a profound effect on me. Why? What makes it work? Why doesn’t it fall off the track? Why are the biggest hills at the beginning? Who makes these things? How many are there? Are there different kinds?
In the early 70s, there was no internet, no Google, no way to find out things quickly. I spent the next three years digging up everything I could find and by the summer of 1976, I felt I was ready to try it again. After all, compared to some of the other coasters I’d seen photos of, this thing was nothing. I could do this. Besides, I was just five back then and now I’m nine years old, practically a grown-up! When the neighbours made a trip to the park in June of 1976 and invited me to go with them, I made up my mind that this would be the day I conquered my fear.
But wait. The park had a new coaster that year, a wooden beast that had already been labeled the #1 Coaster in the World (and it would keep that title for an astonishing six years straight). The neighbours wanted to ride that one, too. My mom told them to ride the old coaster first and see how I reacted, and if things didn’t go well, don’t push me to ride the big one. They agreed.
We headed straight for Dexter Frebish as soon as we got in the park and I reminded myself of all the things I’d learned. The ride scared me, but in a fun way, like a scary movie or a haunted house. I survived it. I even liked it a little. So we headed right for the new one
We got in, the ride started, and two minutes later my life was completely different. I still don’t understand why, but in those two minutes of absolute surrender, when you have no choice but to just relax and let the ride do what it’s going to do, I found peace and happiness and joy. I learned to block out everything - school, grades, homework, and whatever other things stress out a nine-year-old boy - and just live 100% in the moment.
I can still get that ‘zen’ feeling of living in the moment every time I ride a coaster, no matter how big or small it might be. In spite of the trauma-inducing beginning to this hobby, it has brought me countless blessings in the years since. I’ve had lots of wonderful rides, I’ve met lots of great like-minded people at coaster events, and I’ve experienced places and cultures all over the world in my quest to find new rides. As of this writing, I’ve ridden 929 different coasters in 19 countries. I write about some of them on my website, ellocoaster.com
As a child growing up in small town Alberta I desperately wanted to be in a band. Our schools were too small and didn’t offer that so I had to be happy with piano lessons until we moved waaaay up north and there wasn’t even a piano option. So…many years later at St. Albert United Church when Camille Ream asked if there was interest in a handbell group I leaped up for the opportunity to be on a team AND in a band! Yes! I’ve had the privilege to ring under Camille, Dr. John Hooper, and Debbie Rice; I am a founding member of Jubiloso! and I ring in our church choir, as well as directing there when the need has arisen.
Handbells are this old (ancient?) music instrument that tug at people’s heart strings when they hear them. They are easy to learn and take years to get proficient on. However, having said that, handbells provide an easy entry into a team music sport if you’re willing to invest the time into learning the techniques and figuring out how to blend with those around you!
I have collected symposia since I went to the International Symposium in Orlando and continue to be astounded at the friends I have gained through handbells. It’s kind of like what I would imagine a Star Trek convention to be like…….where did all these people with a similar interest come from?
It won’t be long till I’m looking for a “Vintage Bronze” group to ring with. I stand in admiration and thankfulness for all who have gone before me, who lead us, and who will carry us into the future!