When I tell people I play handbells, especially people around my age range, I always inevitably get a question about if I can play such-and-such pop song on bells. A few months ago we put up a post every day for a week highlighting our favorite pop song covers to help answer the question “can you do that on bells?”, and so we are back to do it again.
But why is playing pop music on handbells important?
To answer that question I first have to tell you about an interesting conversation the judges on America’s Got Talent had last week on the show. For those who don’t watch the show, contestants have 90 seconds to impress judges and convince them that their act is worth a million dollars. Most of the bands and singers that audition for the show perform covers of popular music, but occasionally you do see a band perform an original piece. Bands that play original music, however, rarely make it very far in the competition. Howie Mandel, one of the judges on the show, made the comment that singers should perform popular songs so that the audience can enjoy their singing ability without having to understand the piece of music as well. Adding original music adds another variable that judges can dislike during an audition. Singers sound better in short auditions using well known music, in his opinion.
Which got me thinking about what videos I use to introduce my friends to handbells. Typically when I’m introducing someone to bells I will use Brian Seemann’s amazing Gaga cover (which is still my favorite pop handbell cover on the internet), or the Raleigh Ringer’s “Wizards in Winter”, or my own group’s performance of “Now the Green Blade Riseth“. The thing all of these songs have in common is that they are short, catchy, and recognizable. So maybe there is some validity to Howie Mandel’s comment.
If Howie Mandel is right, then playing pop music on handbells isn’t important because it is fun or technically challenging. Playing pop music is important because it brings new listeners into our art form. And with an art form as new and unknown as ours, every new listener is important.
For those who think that there can’t possibly be anything new to do on bells, then here is a bag piper performing AC/DC while shooting off flame throwers to remind you that even if you instrument has been around for three thousand years, you can still find new things to do.
You can check learn more about the Badpiper and buy his albums on his website! Any groups down for trying flaming handbells? (Raleigh Ringers, I’m looking at you).
Stay tuned for a new pop song cover every day this week, and be sure you are following our Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook or email list so that you don’t miss any posts.