The group Bryce and I ring with, Tintabulations, was invited to perform the opening concert at the Handbell National Seminar this past week in Portland, Oregon. Since the drive from Reno, Nevada, to Portland is about 11 hours we decided to make a road trip out of the drive. The National performance was on a Wednesday, so we got extra practice in by leaving on Sunday and performing every evening between then and our big concert. Along the way we got to perform in some beautiful churches in Redding, California, and Salem and Medford, Oregon. Traveling with 14 crazy bell ringers can be an adventure, and here are a few things we learned along the way.
Kids say the darnedest things
On the first day of the trip we held a workshop in Redding, California, to introduce music and bell ringing to the local children. Around 20 kids showed up an hour and a half before our concert to hang out with the group. At the very end of the workshop I decided to introduce the kids to some of the techniques we would be using in our concert later that afternoon. After showing them how to mart (the technique where you slam the bell into the table, for my non-bell-ringing readers) I asked the kids what they would name that technique. One kid immediately piped up and said “THUNDER DROP”. I will from this point on always refer to a mart as a thunder drop.
Reasons why we are not competing in the X-Games
On day two of the trip we were staying in Merlin, Oregon, and had the day free before our concert that night. While researching for the trip we found this family run rafting company that would take us down the Rogue River (look up Ferron’s Fun Trips if you are ever in the area). Our rafting guides were awesome and we all had a blast rafting and kayaking down the Rogue River. None of us are very competent at water based sports, so while we were on the river one of our ringers got her finger smashed between her kayak and a rock. Since the finger was not broken we didn’t think too much of it and she rang a great concert that evening. However, around midnight her finger swelled up and she could no longer remove her wedding ring and at 1am I ended up driving her to the hospital a half an hour down the road to have her wedding ring cut off. She was a great sport about the whole ordeal and still gave every concert her all for the rest of the trip. Maybe next time we should not consider extreme sports as a past time on the way to a National Performance.
No ringer left behind
On day three of the trip I awoke to two of our ringers returning to the house we were renting to ask if a third member of our group had returned yet. The three of them had gone out running that morning, and only two returned. Those two set back out to find her. Fast forward a half hour, and the third runner returned home. It turns out that she had taken a wrong turn somewhere and hitch hiked back to the house after getting lost. Lots of stressful tears and a few free CDs to some helpful locals later we were able to reunite the whole group.
Performing for handbell ringers is intimidating and exhilarating
I will admit that the prospect of ringing for 600+ bell ringers was a bit intimidating. Not only was that just a large audience, every member in the audience was familiar with bells and knew what to watch for. But there was something magical about ringing in front of that audience. Maybe it was the fact that we had already performed that concert a dozen times, or the fact that this would be our only time to show off, but what ever happened the hour and twenty minute concert we performed was the most magical time I have ever spent on a stage. I have been ringing for a dozen years now, and that is the first concert I can honestly say that I left everything on that stage. Watching back the tape from the concert it is clear that everyone else in the group did exactly the same thing. The photo at the top of the article is our group’s picture just moments after coming off stage and you can see the glow in everyone’s faces. We all felt incredibly lucky to be chosen for this honor, and we didn’t waste one moment of it.
One of my favorite moments on stage came while we were ringing “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The Hong Kong Youth Handbell Ensemble was in the audience, and they were scheduled to perform the same piece at their concert later that week. When I looked out in the audience I saw all of them air belling along to our performance and watching their positions on the tables. To be that close to your audience is an amazing experience, and I caught myself air belling to their performance later that week. (Although our group would not look as cute in pirate costumes as their group does).
Thank you again to the National Board that gave us this opportunity, and thank you to everyone who came up afterwards with kind words about our performance. Sunday evening when we were sitting around in the hotel all everyone in the group could do is ask “how do we beat this next summer?”.