In Hollywood, the story of the hero who wins against all odds sells millions of dollars in tickets. We have all seen these stories. James Bond looks like he is being beaten by the latest super villain when he discovers the newest Bond gadget and saves the day. Harry Potter looks like he is going to lose before the magic of his parent’s love kicks in to defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (or in my case He-Whose-Name-Can’t-Be-Spelled). Music can be a powerful story teller as well. The music doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy to tug at your emotions, and even the simplest pieces can bring the audience to stunned silence.
Since handbells tends to be a mostly religious based instruments, arguably the most popular story told through handbells is the life-death-resurrection story of Jesus. This story has been passed down for generations and has been depicted in ever medium of art imaginable. The story is a powerful one, and people religious or not are able to connect with it because we are surrounded by life and death every day. In my group this season we are performing an amazing a piece about a life-death-resurrection story, but not about who you might expect.
Arnold Sherman’s “Grazioso” tells the story of Norma Taubert Brown. Norma was a handbell ringer who was diagnosed with cancer. Although she fought the disease, the cancer finally won and took her life. When Sherman wrote the piece, instead of focusing on mourning the death, he instead focused on celebrating her life. The result is a powerful piece of music. My group, Tintab, has always loved this piece. Even though we have become more advanced and perform much more difficult music, “Grazioso” still makes it into our concert program ever couple years. Here is our group performing Sherman’s piece this spring.
The other nice thing is that “Grazioso” is also a relatively simple piece of music, requiring only a few bell changes and techniques. The story telling aspect of the piece is embedded in brilliant composition, not complicated gimmicks. There are several pieces out there that are simple and yet moving. “Celtic Farewell” by Linda Lamb is another one of my favorites. What is your favorite piece of music that tells a story which is also very simple?
As a side note, our group is traveling to North Carolina this summer to perform several concerts. To help raise money for the trip we are selling fabulous handbell t-shirts with our own custom design. The shirts are limited edition, and the sale ends June 9th, so if you want one you should get one today! Also, if you are in North Carolina or Virginia, keep an eye out for us at the end of the month.