I’m proud to announce my brand-new membership in my church’s handbell choir.
Okay, I lied. I’m terrified that I will be performing with the handbell choir this Sunday. (Click here for video of the song we’ll be performing. Or in my case, trying to perform!)
Yep. Last night should have been a “watch and decide whether the choir is out of my league” observation, but one member was out recovering from surgery and the choir members jumped at the chance to have all of the parts covered. Apparently, they have not had a full complement for a long time.
I’ve had many years of classical training music, but I only had two years of handbell choir experience. Many years ago. In a small student choir that played Gospel acclamations and Alleluia chimes, not real, grown-up pieces for special church performances.
Out of my league? You bet.
Yet I left rehearsal exhilarated. For ninety minutes, my brain whirred to take in all of the new techniques (that I never learned or forgot I’d learned). Chimes. Striking the bell with a mallet. Damping on the shoulders instead of on the table. Striking the bells (lightly) against the padded table. Accidentally clinking one bell against another and wincing, remembering former choir directors’ wrath at injuring the instruments. (Bells are expensive!)
For ninety minutes, my life centered on four bells and four chimes. One mallet. The hole on the index finger on my left glove. Flipping through the sheet music to find the correct song. Sticking my tongue in between my teeth as I silently counted “and one and two and” to come in at the right rhythm. Cursing the accidentals popping up for one note, having to switch bells, and losing my place while double-checking to make sure I had the right bells in my hands. Wincing at wrong notes, thinking they were mine, and relaxing when someone else admitted to playing on the wrong beat.
The conductor raising his baton to rehearse only the eighth notes. Waiting for the run-through, then jumping in the second time.
“Did you all hear me when I said only the black notes?” he scolded.
“Sorry!” I yelped, mortified. (For the record, it wasn’t just me playing when I wasn’t supposed to!)
“Be nice or she won’t come back!” scolded one of the other players.
“She’s doing great!” said a few others. “Must have had music training.”
Church music directors are notorious for their frustration in dealing with amateur musicians, and church amateur musicians are notorious for not caring. 🙂
Today, I am thankful for a childhood spent practicing scales. An adolescence spent largely in practice rooms and rehearsals, learning how to love music and how to perform. I hated the pressure of performing then, but now I get to enjoy the camaraderie of making music with fellow music lovers.
“Handbell ringers are few and far between,” the choir director told me last Sunday when he invited me to watch the rehearsal.
I feel as if I’ve been given the passcode to a new world, a ninety-minute time warp once a week when I get to be absorbed by worrying only about music and nothing else.
Last summer, I became caught up in the rush of enjoying baseball. With the close of the season and onset of winter, baseball mania has faded. I needed something to energize me, wake me up, and stir my passions.
Yesterday I made a joyful noise, and for that I am thankful. I took the sheet music home with me and have been playing “air bell” to prepare for my debut on Sunday. 🙂
What makes you thankful today?