Music rings out with teamwork

Last evening’s bell choir rehearsal at church was a great success. This group is challenging, yet a lot of fun and very rewarding.  With just six ringers (including myself), the challenge is to make full-sounding music with a small team.  We also have a wide range of abilities in the group.  It has been a treat for me to train some brand-new, younger ringers, who are learning very quickly how to make great music.

four-in-hand ringing

Being a regular ringer as well as director has presented a new and unique challenge for me; I’ve enjoyed learning new techniques like ringing “four-in-hand” (Tricky! Two bells in each hand need to ring independently of each other, so one goes sideways and the other goes frontways – it makes my brain hurt sometimes!).

Bell Choir has become one of my favorite music groups because of the teamwork involved. We have a common goal of making the music sound wonderful, and the common goal above that of bringing praise to God and inspiring others with that music. Attaining that goal in worship requires each person to be present for rehearsals (else their notes in the scale do not get played at all), listen to each other so that the notes match each other when playing a melody, watch and respond to the director so that a tempo is maintained and beautiful “moments” of dynamic or phrasing can happen. It is a lot to count on, and I’m impressed every time with how well they do it.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to work with such a committed and talented group, and for the inspiration they provide. They ring in worship next on Sunday, June 13.

Visit with greatness

Mary McCleary (1984)

I visited a very dear friend yesterday, Mary McCleary.  If you are into handbells at all, her name is very familiar to you, as she was a very prolific handbell composer in years past, and a tireless advocate for that instrument(s).  Mary is my sort of “adopted grandmother” – I followed her as music director in two churches in CT, and we have always been mutual admirers and good friends.  She’ll be 90 in August, and now lives in Elim Park, a retirement community in Cheshire, where she has gotten a total new lease on life as a musician, helping them to put a pipe organ in their chapel, leading a group of elder singers in a weekly sing-along (she says, “Can you believe I’ve finally learned to play by ear?!”), and being part of a very close-knit community after many years of living alone.

My favorite story about Mary is that she played her first organ recital in Connecticut on THE Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941!  She always mentions that of course they had no idea the attack happened until days later.

The differences we make in people’s lives as musicians are immeasurable.  I have always been humbled by the sheer number of people that have had their lives enriched by Mary’s gifts and joy in sharing them, for so many years.  My young son was along for the visit, and was taken in by her immediately – perhaps McCleary Fan No. 3000?