Developing a Musician "Note" By "Note"
The fall of 2005, I was honored to become a new member of our recently reorganized handbell choir. This honor came about
as an answer to a forgotten prayer and is proof that God answers all prayers in His time.
Thus, the first note: As Christians, we pray regarding the desires of our hearts, realizing that they will occur
if and when it is God’s will. I was crushed to learn that the Handbell Choir had disbanded years ago for lack
of a director. I had prayed to find a church in which to have this opportunity. Of course, my next prayer was that a director
would be found! What a pity that three whole octaves of bells had their voices hushed by inactivity, while they rested forgotten
in a cabinet, unable to share their music with us....Our bells had been silenced too long when finally we rang anew. It
had been several years since I prayed for a director for our handbells, years in which life had gradually evolved my prayers
into matters far removed from the music ministry of our church. Yet, God remembered that prayer and fulfilled my dream
at the time that I needed it most.
The second note: Technique, counting, and repetitive practice are marks of a true musician. As we organized
members with interest and/or experience, we first had to determine who had the strength to ring the larger bells, versus who
preferred to play the smaller bells or not play at all. During this time, we also began to gradually learn technique, counting
and scales. How frustrating it is to desire to play well but be unable to while suffering the pangs of humility to
learn the necessary technique! Practicing the same line or measure repeatedly to perfect a rhythm challenged our patience
tremendously, and would possibly challenge the patience of Job, too! The desire to play well is not sufficient means to create
music with handbells. We soon learned the value of technique and counting, as well as how blessed we are that our director
is extremely patient and devoted. A love of music is imperative to being a musician for it is this which gives the patience
needed to sustain repetitive practice.
The third note: An unsuccessful practice combined with prayer can lead to a successful performance. We chose
to warm up prior to our public debut with a short practice. Due to nervousness, we made every mistake possible despite a decent
rehearsal several nights before. A short prayer with our pastor restored our sense of teamwork and strengthened our souls,
after which our service to the Lord, not without blemish but drastically improved, received numerous compliments.
The fourth note: Successful practices are not a guarantee for flawless performances. Maintaining composure, then uttering
a silent prayer that the audience did not notice, minimizes errors. After a short break, we began work on a Christmas
presentation. We were pleased to learn new techniques that brought variety and a sense of accomplishment. Determined to improve
on our last performance, we tried our best at rehearsal. We had opted to play pre-service, then enjoy the Christmas Day service
with our families. However, scheduling conflicts, combined with nervousness and excitement, led to disaster. It was a very
humbled group that reconvened for practice after the holidays.
The fifth note: The music of handbells does not exist without notes played in proper sequence. Accurate counting and technique
create the handbell musician. The voices of the bells rely on the musician to release their notes of joy. When we reconvened,
it was our love for the music that reunited us and encouraged us to strive for perfect rhythm and clear tones.
After performing fairly successfully last spring, we opted to cease practice for the summer to enjoy vacations and the
planting season. As fall of 2006 approached, I found myself anticipating a new season of practice, with the sudden realization
that I had come to think of myself as a musician of the handbells rather than just a new member of the choir. I am a living
example that handbell "notes" develop musicians. To God be the Glory for the ability to lift others’ hearts in
joyful worship through music!
Author’s Note: We have completed our second season as "The Bells of Concordia." Our performances are much stronger.
Our music is only slightly more advanced but we have played more dates. Most important, though, our confidence has improved
as our abilities have increased! We are living examples that prayer works miracles!