A few months ago, I got a call from Mary, one of the directors of the Handbell Guild. They are the nice people who have loaned me the chimes to start my elementary school hand chime choir. She asked if I would like to bring my choir to perform at the annual Spring Ring, where hand bell choirs from all throughout the state come for an all day workshop with a guest clinician. This year’s event would be held at Davis High. I pretty much dismissed that idea, because first of all, I only had 12 students at the time, and second.. Davis High? That’s in Kaysville. Do you know how far that is to drive? I politely thanked her and told her I would think about it.
Well, she called again in February and reminded me that we were invited to come and play at the spring ring if we could. The board thought it would be fun to include an elementary choir, and say a little bit about the chime loan program to encourage other people who might want to get a choir started at their school or church. Well, I told her I would ask the parents and get back to her. I sent out an email to the parents of my choir and told them we had been invited to this bell choir event that was WAY up in Kaysville, and they would have to drive their kids there, and if they didn’t all come it would be fine. I figured I would need 11 kids to make it work. Maybe 10. Within a few days I had 8 kids committed to come. With my two kids, that would be 10, so I decided to go for it.
I told the kids and the parents that we would go, and accepted the invitation, but not without trepidation. It’s one thing to play in the band and orchestra concert where the only people who come are the parents who think whatever their kid does is great, and another thing entirely to play in front of a whole crowd of BELL PEOPLE. Not only bell people, but my peers. I told LeAnna Wilmore, the Bells on Temple Square director, what would be happening, just to make sure that was ok with her that I would leave our group for a bit to go and direct my little choir, and to ask her if I could borrow some chimes if we needed extras. She was nothing but supportive, telling me I could use whatever I needed, and that it would be no problem at all.
Then she announced it to the group that I would be bringing my little chime choir to this event. My bell choir peeps were SO supportive. I don’t know why I was surprised. We have been together for 8 years, some of us, and we really are like a family. One friend said, “What song are you playing? If you want, we can stand behind and ring just in case they mess up. I was really blown away by their kind comments. It made me feel encouraged. A little bit.
We rehearsed the Star Spangled Banner in earnest, and even had some early morning rehearsals this week so that all of the kids could ring together. Normally half come before school and half come after school, which makes it a little difficult to hear the whole song together. All but one of my kids committed to come, so we didn’t even have to do any switching around.
But I was still nervous. This being our first “on the road” performance of any kind, I had a big mental checklist of things I had to remember. Two boxes of chimes, all the music folders, get covers for the tables, bring the old quilts we use as table pads, bring chocolate for the kids (I had promised them chocolate), as well as the stuff I usually have to schlep with me to an all day ringing event (water bottles, diet coke, slip, shoes and nylons to go with my uniform, snacks, advil, etc. I seriously had a TON of stuff. And since Ryan was going to be bringing three of the chime kids up there, I didn’t want to drive another car, so I transferred the whole load into my carpool buddy’s car to take up to Davis High on Saturday.
Set up for this kind of thing is Huge. It’s about 240 bell ringers from many different choirs all set up in the gym. We started set up at 8 am, then starting our workshop at 9:15. We learned 5 songs that day, and it’s really neat to learn from the actual composer, who was our guest conductor for the day. A lot of the high school choirs spend a few rehearsals learning the music beforehand, but we found if we do that, we get too bored during the long day of rehearsing, so we go in cold (but don’t tell the other choirs–we wouldn’t want to sound cocky or anything.)
I was so nervous about the chime thing that I really couldn’t concentrate on the music. So many things could go wrong, and I have trouble getting my brain to not focus on the worst case scenario. What if the kids don’t get there in time? What if some of them don’t come? What if they get nervous and fall apart? It wasn’t helping things when one of my friends texted me at about the time they should be leaving asking for the address of the school, and what time is it that they need to be there. Are you freaking kidding me? Do you not read ANY of the emails I sent you?
At around 4:15, the director dismissed us to go and get changed and get ready for the concert at 5:00. I knew that one of my kids was there, and I started to set things up, with a churning of stress and worry in my gut. I soon saw Ryan arrive with three of the kids, and then another parent with three more of the kids, and I was so happy to have them there. The kids, however, were more interested in seeing the really big bells and chimes than in rehearsing. I had to get them to focus so we could play the song at least once, and I told them we could all see the big bells AFTER the concert. By 4:40, all of the kids were there.
We quickly ran through our song, then I got them seated in order, and went to go change. Originally I thought I would wear regular clothes and not my Bells on Temple Square flashy raspberry dress, but I didn’t really have the time to change back and forth. I didn’t do much with my hair, either, so it looks pretty sad.
I joined my choir and played two pieces with them, then slunk away when another group did their solo. When it was our turn, I stood up, got my kids up, and got them ready to play. Mary got up to introduce us and explained about the chime loan program, and that we were an elementary choir in our first year of rehearsing, etc. And then it was our turn. I whispered to them, “Don’t play on count TWO” and we started.
Because we were playing the Star Spangled Banner, people stood up. I kind of wish they hadn’t stood up, and my director mentioned that she hoped they would announce that the audience didn’t need to stand up, but they stood up anyway. Oh, well.
The kids did great. They played it just like we had in practice! I forgot to have them bow or anything (I’m new at this), but they got a lot of applause. Because they’re so cute, right?
Then I had them go back to their seats in the stands, and I went back over to my group to play the last couple of songs and our solo.
After the concert, when I came back to get the chimes put away and show the kids the “REALLY really big bells and chimes” like I had promised, the parents were all gathered around. “What will it take to buy a set of chimes for our school?” one of them said, and “We want to do a fundraiser or something because we want this program to continue”,and “You need to meet this guy, he’s in charge of booking groups to play the National Anthem for the Jazz games.” I was overwhelmed. I hadn’t realized what a good opportunity this was to get the PARENTS together, for them to hear about the chime loan program and to talk to the other parents. I wish I had been more organized and I already had my kickstarter fundraiser program up and running so I could just tell them where they could donate, but I was a little frazzled at the time. But at least I know that they WANT to help, and sound like they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep this choir going next year.
Once I got changed and got everything loaded up in the car, I was elated. That had gone SO WELL! All my stress and worry were not necessary (when are they ever, really?) and it had gone even better than I thought it would. I was so happy with the positive reaction, and the mention of playing with the Jazz (probably won’t happen because they only have 10 more home games, but at least he thought enough of us to bring it up!). Exhausted from the very long day, but so pleased. And I finally feel like what I am doing really matters, and not just to me.
Happy Dance (to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner, because it will take DAYS to get that song out of my head).