Tag Archives: Choir

Music Made By Human Hands

hand1 hand2 hand3 hand4

When I was a little discouraged after a recent handbell workshop, my sister posted wrote that I should stay in the handbell choir because “music is good for the soul.” I’m sure she’s right and I’m pretty certain to keep ringing.

Anyway, the MMU spring concert was Wednesday night. The handbell ensemble got to perform two songs, the choir sang, the band played and there were a number of solo performances.

I enjoyed myself. As I sat there listening to others perform, I was also thinking about hands.

Singers used their voices and many of the instruments were powered by human breath, but kept in time with a conductor’s hands. The piano was in frequent use, a percussion instrument that is played hands down. I rang bells and chimes in my hands.

I don’t totally understand music—in fact, to be honest, it’s an area of human endeavor where I am woefully undereducated. But music is like language. Although it exists in nature, in the songs of whales or birds, it is still a singularly human activity—with our hands we’ve made it an interesting non-verbal way of communication, which somehow makes it fascinating for a language guy.

The dexterity of hands, their rhythmic timing, the sounds they make—they filled the Chapel of Mercy with beautiful noise Wednesday night. Granted, voices were engaged too. But for some reason I was caught up in the hands.

I don’t know why. It’s, a music thing, I suppose. Which to me makes it part of a delicious mystery. Is that part of the reason why it’s good for my soul?


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The bells, the bells, the bells …

Bell Poster

The poster I created to promote our Mass on Sunday. Note that the bells shown are G and A. Guess what I play?

Do you like the poster design? I’m kinda proud of it, I did it in a few minutes this week to publicize the Mount Mercy Bell Choir participating in Sunday Mass on Jan. 24. I am not familiar with this particular Bob Dylan song I am quoting, but yes, it is “that” Bob Dylan, the one who should never sing Christmas songs.

Y’all are invited.

After the fact Fr. Nick e-mailed me to let me know that “performance” is not a good verb since music is part of the liturgy and not really entertainment. Point taken, although the posters have already been printed, and he’s a cool guy, was just glad someone did something to try to get people to Mass.

Anyway, I’ve been in the MMC chimes choir since January of last year, and this January we put down our chimes and picked up bells.

It’s been an interesting learning experience. Music is pretty darn complex. It’s taken me a year to memorize that G is my left hand and A is my right hand, and G and A in the bass clef are the only two notes I know (I guess 3, if you count my sharp and flat). I’ve been marking our songs, writing an A or G under each of my notes, and Carolyn, our director, wanted me to try to sight read this January.

It was a disaster. The notes are just too darn fast and small for my middle-aged eyes and brain. Yes, I can “read” notes, as long as it’s only the A and G on the bass clef, but I can’t read as fast as the choir plays. If I have not marked my notes in advance, I quickly get lost (and I’m too prone to getting lost anyway).

Not me.  If I wear a watch (rarely do) it's on my right hand because I'm a southpaw.  And I have an old brown Yamaha, not whatever fancy pants black piano is shown.  This was just an imaged labeled for free use ...

Not me. If I wear a watch (rarely do) it's on my right hand because I'm a southpaw. And I have an old brown Yamaha, not whatever fancy pants black piano is shown. This was just an imaged labeled for free use ...

Anyway, since I inherited my mother’s old out-of-tune piano, I’ve started working on a “How to Play Piano” text book, mostly to learn more notes and how to read them. I’m only on lesson one right how, but promise I will practice more tomorrow night (not tonight, because tonight it’s bowling on an MMC team and then Project Runway—Thursday is our one night of TV and includes The Office, 30 Rock and PR. By the way, I think 30 Rock may be one of the best under-watched shows on TV.)

There are other bell issues I face. My G bell has a “wandering” clapper. The clapper has different settings, a soft setting and two loud settings that you adjust by “clicking” a dial from one setting to another. But my bell clapper, while I’m playing, mind you, will “unclick” and end up between settings, which leads to a horrible “claaaaaang” instead of a nice clear G.

Carolyn, and her husband Bob, both experienced bellers, have tried to figure it out and have contacted the bell maker. Apparently, I’ve caused a new unheard of problem—“Sheller Syndrome?”—that involves a mysteriously mischievous clapper.

Lucky me.

So, how have I enjoyed the year struggling to keep up and trying (but failing) to read music?

Quite a lot, actually. I really like learning weird new things, and this is just a fun group to be part of.

So, even if I have to wait for a pause to correct my G clapper, and even if reading the music is still a bit of a mystery to me, I say if you have the chance to join a bell choir, go for it.

Ring them bells.


Filed under Uncategorized