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Let's Play
Harold Haddox
12/3/2014
"Look at the new piece in your folder. Let's play it!" With enthusiasm the choir begins and within a few minutes the group is hopelessly mired down by wrong notes, rhythms and missed bells. What happened? Does this sound familiar? Do you need new ringers? Ringers with more experience? Easier music? These are solutions but let's take a different approach.

Handbell choirs are different from choral groups. The Church Choir receives a new anthem and begins work by singing through it. Except for rests in different voices, the singer sings his part along with many others. Not so with handbell choirs. The ringer picks his note at a precise moment from chords and notes ringing simultaneously. As Director, your preparation can make your ringers' task easier.

If you have enough ringers to cover all your bells assigning two diatonic notes to each ringer our task is easy. If you do not have this luxury, your preparation starts before the music is distributed.

Mark on your score ALL bell assignments, regardless how simple or complex. Even if you use diatonic assignment system, mark your music as you go through the score checking each ringer's notes. Not only does this help you understand the music, it alerts you to problems a ringer may encounter. I suggest several texts which offer valuable suggestion on bell assignment. Mastering Musicianship in Handbells by Don Allured, Chapter 3; and The Director's Manual by Janet Van Valey and Susan Berry, Chapter 6. Assigning and Marking Handbell Music by Frank Ross and Handbell Assignments Book by Robert Ivey are books with which every director should be familiar. These volumes give workable alternatives to the regular diatonic method.

Regardless of your system, it is imperative that you know who rings every bell throughout each title you assign. Work through this with EVERY piece and your groups will work more diligently with less confusion because they know the bells assigned are workable.

Vibrations, Spring 1995
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