When Our Director, Tom, told us about the Advanced Ringers Workshop, it didn’t sound all that exciting. Another all day bell thing? Those are SO exhausting. But when he explained a little more in detail about what a great opportunity it would be and that he needed 13 of us to go, I considered it. Yes, that would mean sacrificing a few Saturday mornings for rehearsal and one entire Saturday, but when I looked at my schedule I saw that it was possible, so I volunteered.
Even though I have been ringing hand bells for over 5 years, I don’t consider myself an â€œadvanced ringerâ€ by any stretch of the imagination. I’m more of an â€œok ringer who tries really hard to handle my own part and not mess everyone else up.â€ But I love playing, and I love our choir, so any time spent with them would not be wasted.
When we met for our first rehearsal, we had some interesting bell assignments. Everyone seemed to be just one note off from their familiar ringing spot. Instead of playing F and G, I was assigned E and F. That shift was harder than any of us thought it would be. Even though we are reading the notes right, the wrong hand would ring, out of habit. Then we would find ourselves looking at the bell in our hand with the look of â€œBell, what’s up with that?â€ Maybe you know that look. But the music was fun, and challenging.
On October 9th, (my husband’s birthday)we met in Springville, and set up. I wondered who the friendly looking guy in the ponytail was. Oh, that’s Dr. William Payn! I didn’t know much about him, but if I’d had been prepared and looked up his bio, I would have been impressed. He’s been playing hand bells for longer than I have been alive! He plays, directs, composes, teaches… he does it all. He has a calm quiet countenance, and he directs like he loves the music. Even as we were playing his piece, â€œPsalm of Peaceâ€, he was not critical or demanding, but positive and encouraging.
Throughout the day, Dr. Payn taught us techniques, tips, and tricks. He was hands on, and took the time to demonstrate what he was talking about. He was engaging and energetic. Even during the most difficult of passages, he was full of praise, applauding our efforts. It made me want to play even better. Yes, it was a long day. But even though we were tired, it was worth it. After we had worked the four pieces we had prepared, we sight read about 5 pieces. Some were new, some were more familiar. It was refreshing to just play those pieces as well as we could. Not rehearsing for a performance, but just to play. Sometimes we may forget that playing a song together should be a joyful experience.
I hope that everyone in attendance felt as involved as I did. I was on the front row, really close to Dr. Payn, but I think he brought us all in. The group was not huge, so we all had a chance for personal interaction. Dr. Payn even sat among us at lunch, answering questions, laughing and talking. And lunch. Did I mention that lunch was GREAT! A variety of sandwiches, fruit and saladsâ€”it was all so yummy. Thanks, Karen for the super lunch and the nice snacks.
When the workshop was over, I felt like I was leaving a better ringer than I had come. The instruction and the day full of ringing together made that happen. Yes, my back was aching and I was feeling my age, but I was happy. If felt good to be with fellow ringers who were there not to compete or to perform for each other, but to learn together. Thank you, Dr. Payn, and thank you to all those in AGEHR XI who put this workshop together. The only thing missing was a â€œI rang bells with Dr. Paynâ€ t-shirt.
This is an article I wrote for my director about our experience. It’s probably not all that interesting to the general public, but I thought I would post it here just to share what I’ve been doing the last month.