Handbell Musicians of America Festival

April 4, 2019

“What is a Handbell Festival?”

by Brietta Miller, Handbell Director

This past weekend, March 29-March 30, eight members of the Galilee Wesley Ringers (and two spouses) attended the Handbell Musicians of America Area 3 Festival in Chesapeake, VA. Along with choirs from Delaware, Maryland, DC, Virginia, and North Carolina, we rehearsed and performed music under guest conductor Brian Childers.

One of the reasons we go to an overnight festival is to be able to learn more about each other. After checking in to our hotel and setting up our handbells on Friday night, we had our first fellowship time over dinner. After sharing food and stories, we got to work at our first rehearsal which was about two hours long. A long night, perhaps, but there was plenty of time for getting to know each other before we turned in for the evening.

On Saturday we got up and grabbed breakfast (more fellowship time), before heading to morning rehearsal. We practiced four songs and attended our choice of classes on handbells. There were various topics, including techniques like how to ring the big low bass bells or the small bells with more than one in each hand, and how to move efficiently without hitting the bells or crossing our arms. We learned to ring properly so we can make the most of the sound that comes out of the bell. There was also a class on playing African drums. And we played handbell trivia, because you need to have a break!  

When it was time for lunch, we chatted with new friends or took the opportunity to grab a free 20 minute massage. You have to stay loose to play the handbells well. After lunch came more rehearsal and lessons.

At the end of the day, thirteen choirs performed five songs in concert at a free performance. Some of the songs were quite challenging, included a “bronze level” piece that only one choir auditioned to play.

What’s the most important thing to me about a festival?

The people! Festival time is about meeting new people that love making music and learning about handbells. There is a lot of rehearsal, sometimes some confusion, but with patience and good cheer you get to the end result: a beautiful and harmonious song played by many hands.

 If you want to learn more about the Wesley Ringers, take a look at the Music Ministry page, email brietta.miller@galileeumc.org, or just ask any of our Wesley Ringers.