Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Features

February 22, 2014

Thirty years and still ringing

Local handbell choirs gearing up for annual festival

(Continued)

Choir member Susan Hall knew very little about the handbell up until two years ago when Shiloh United Methodist sought new members.

Why not try it out, she thought.

“I knew how to read music, and I thought it would be easy,” she said. “It is not.”

She’s still learning all of the techniques. She explained some of them Wednesday night.

There’s the thumb damp.

Hall picked up her bell and placed the thumb of the hand holding the instrument on the outside of its casting instead of on the handle. Doing that creates a “stop” sound when the clapper strikes the inside of the bell.

She then showed off the martellato lift. She struck the bell on the padded table in front of her and then immediately lifted the bell back up so the sound would continue.

Hall said mastering all of the techniques may not even be the most difficult part, though.

The timing is so critical when you’re not playing all the notes.

“You have the one note you’re waiting for, and you have to get it just right,” she said.

Ison agreed.

In a regular choir, if you miss a note, someone else will just pick it up. In a handbell choir, if you miss a note, it’s just gone, she said.

Harnish said she likes that choir members rely on each other so much. It fosters camaraderie within the group.

“This is real cooperation,” she said. “It’s like a team.”

The team bantered back and forth Wednesday, teasing each other. They’d laugh at the mistakes they made before working to correct them.

Ison loves the group’s dynamic. The women have so much fun together, she said.

“What I enjoy most are these people,” she said, looking around the room. “They’re so excited to be here.”

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