Monday, April 9, 2012

WHO'S IN TOWN? Handbell Ringers April 12-15

When I saw that the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers Area V Spring Festival-- aka "Bellebration"-- was coming to Louisville next weekend, my little head went kablooey! What the...? Who ARE these people? How can there be such a thing? I was delighted... "delighted"doesn't even begin to cover it. I am endlessly fascinated with people who are devoted to obscure things.

I immediately hit their website and read up on their many competitions, scholarships, youth initiatives. And the idea for this new series-- WHO'S IN TOWN?-- was born. Because if the handbell ringers had come and gone and I was none the wiser... I would have been bummed out.

And honestly, who knows how obscure the handbells really are? This season on the Zooey Deschanel show "The New Girl" an entire episode centered around a handbell competition. Maybe Zooey can do for the handbells what other Manic Pixie Dream Girls have gone for the ukulele.

I fired off an email to the Handbell Ringers to see if I could find out more about the upcoming Bellebration, and I got this fantastic response from Area 5 Secretary, Wendy Ransom.  

LOU: What goes on during Bellebration? Can you give us a brief overview of the event? 

WENDY: Bellebration is a handbell festival hosted by Area 5 of Handbell Musicians of America (There are 12 areas that make up the national organization).  Area 5 covers a five state area-Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and West Virginia. Handbell choirs from all over the 5 states will gather in Louisville for a 2 day event featuring a combination of massed rehearsals and hands-on classes on various handbell techniques. Approximately 400 musicians are expected.

The event has two levels of handbell musicians. Tins who perform generally easier music and Coppers who perform more complex or difficult music. Each group has 2 unique pieces they perform on their own and then 3 pieces for the entire massed choir. The groups rotate through divisional rehearsal, massed rehearsal and then time in classes. Classes include topics such as, basic ringing technique, high bell technique including four in hand, bass bell technique, musicality, handbells in worship, and others. (note- bells range in size from approximately 2" in diameter weighing less than a pound to approximately 11" in diameter and weighing 11lbs. Different sizes have different techniques.)

Why did you choose Louisville? 

We aim to rotate the annual festivals around the 5 state area to make them accessible to members. We host 2 each spring and aim to host them in areas in opposite locations. Our other festival this year was held in Akron, Ohio on March 16 & 17. It is also a bit about price and what any given city has to offer in a convention center. The event is short. It begins on Friday at 4 and is over by 6pm on Saturday. Having dining options in the vicinity of a convention center is important due to the need for 400 people to get out, eat, and get back to the event in a relatively short amount of time. It is also nice to have an entertaining city for those who opt to stay over Saturday night and return home on Sunday.

Aside from your Bellebration events, what are you most looking forward to doing while you're in town? 

It has been a number of years since we hosted our event in Lousiville so we are looking forward to heading to a different city and a generally bigger one than our usual venues.

Are there any events associated with Bellebration that the public can attend? 

Yes our closing concert is open to the public. It is at 5:30pm on Saturday the 14th at the Kentucky International Convention Center. The concert will run approximately one hour. Seating is general seating and our concerts are usually well attended.

You can learn more about the guild at and more specifically about Area 5

1 comment:

Elaine said...

Thanks for posting about handbells! As a handbell freak myself, it's fun to see a non-ringer take notice.