Today’s video is my group’s performance of “Misty” at the Handbell Musicians of America’s National Seminar last month in Portland. I fell in love with this piece in 2010 when I got the chance to perform it with Dr. Payn at an Area XII festival, and I immediately brought it back to the group and told them we had to do it. The piece is written for handbells, but I saw a video of the Sonoran Bells performing it on chimes which creates a sound very similar to a Fender Rhodes electric piano and knew I wanted to try to emulate that sound. The all chime sound while beautiful does get old fast, so I varied the tempos and dynamics every time the chorus came around to keep the piece moving.
Jazz on handbells is a tricky business. In jazz there are rules that are meant to be broken and guidelines you have to follow. Typically you have a rhythm section (piano, bass, and drums) that lays down a steady tempo, which the other instruments then improvise over. I did try to and recreate that effect during rehearsals by having the bass bells hold steady while the treble bells were free to do as they like, but it just made the whole piece feel awkward so we scratched that idea. Instead I went with more of a jazz piano feeling where both hands are free to emote.
Enjoy “Misty” performed by Tintabulations and conducted by me. I apologize for the freight elevator noise in the background. (I usually set up mics around the room to make the recordings sound better, but I didn’t at our National performance because it didn’t seem appropriate. Then we nailed our performance and all I have to work with is my video camera recording. Sigh….)
What is your favorite jazz standard on bells?