Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Dear Ringers, (non-ringers, and all!) and to all those who have followed our blog these past two
What a great trip it has been.
As we are on our way home, most of you are sleeping as we were up at 4 am to catch our flight out of Manchester, England. A beautiful sunrise started our morning and a smooth check in. We had all our passports, all our suitcases, and bells. All is good. Last minute shopping for some at the airport.
From the ringers to the non-ringers thank you to you all for being such great traveling companions. We have seen, ate, talked, and heard so many things these past 2 weeks. My hope for all of you is that you have all enjoyed the trip – have learned something new, made some new friends. Ringers we have rang a lot and heard a lot great ringing - I hope that it inspires you all for the coming fall.
Thank you to all the parents for your support!
I hope that you will read the blogs and see the photos that are posted. Thanks to all who wrote - as you read the blogs be sure to comment if you want to add your view of the day!
Now a thanks to all who have followed our posts!
The ringers had a chance to share their gift of music with others – and it is because of all of you that we have been able to do it.
In great appreciation to all!
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Today we woke up at a semi-reasonable hour of around 8 in the morning to prepare for our long day of playing bells. After breakfast, we made our way to the playing floor. We had an amazing three and a half hour practice as a "run through" for the concert. This was an exasperating time on the trip, but it went quickly as it was soon time for lunch. Today we had potatoes and meatballs, lots of meat balls. During the time we had lunch we had a little extra free time. Most people got ready for the concert, but some just chilled. After the hour and a half of lunch/free time, it was our dress rehearsal. We practiced only the beginnings and endings of all our songs, just to refresh our memories before the concert. After the dress rehearsal, we prepared for the concert. At this time, all the procrastinators, who hadn't already done so, got dressed. We lined up fifteen minutes before the concert in our groups- nervous, dressed and ready to go. We heard them announce us from behind the curtain and the show began. For the most part we played the concert very well, apart from the left side (we were on the right) which was playing like there was a train to catch. It lasted two and a half some-odd hours, including a short encore. We were sooooo relieved to have the concert over and done with. We were pretty proud of ourselves! We took a huge bow, whispered the ritual, "I love handbells." and walked out. We then went back to our hotel rooms and gussied up for the closing ceremony and banquet. Everyone looked super fresh (stunning). We ate a great meal of Welsh beef and finally enjoyed some free, socialization time. (There was almost none in such an intense and tiresome week). The two choirs didn't end the celebration just then, we had a little surprise up our sleeves for our marvelous directors, Eiko and Eileen. We bought them each a baton, (handle colored specifically to match their personalities) and wrote the names of all the members of the trip on them. I (Ashley) also learned how to write a few messages in my Chinese writing workshop at the symposium and penned a message for Eiko in Chinese. It was very appropriate for the setting: "I love handbells." It was hard to tell, but I think it's safe to say that the two were slightly moved by our gesture. (They were "totes-magotes", or "totally" in Grace language, on the verge of tears). The closing ceremony proceeded with the recognition of everyone who was involved in the symposium process; from the guild members, to the directors, to the staff and, of course, the ringers! After dinner, we went back up to our hotel rooms and finished packing. It was very late when some of us finished. After so much work, so much standing and not so much sleep, it was nice to finally be able to relax and look forward to our trip home!
Friday, August 3, 2012
Please bear with me while I digress into physics for a bit.
There is a category of physical effect known as an "inverse-square law". One occurs when energy starts at a point and radiates outward in all directions. A good example is a candle on a table: The light and heat goes out from the flame in all directions, initially. When an inverse-square law applies, the amount of energy at a point is based on the inverse of the distance to the energy source, squared. This means that doubling the distance between an observer and the energy source divides the amount of energy that reaches the observer by four. The reason for this, for the curious, is that the energy outputted by such a source can be viewed as if it is distributed on the surface of a sphere, with the radius of the sphere being the distance between the source and the observer. As the distance increases, the same energy must cover a larger area, and therefore there is less energy per point, and the surface area of a sphere depends on its radius squared.
By this point you're probably wondering why I'm bringing this up in a blog about handbells. At least, I hope you are; if you already know why then this will be a rather boring paragraph for you. Sound waves, such as those generated by handbells, are governed by an inverse-square law. When one rings a bell, it emits energy, in the form of sound waves, in all directions. Now, imagine that you have a few hundred ringers filling a room. The difference in the distances between one choir and the audience and a different choir and the audience can get quite significant, and ringers must account for this. In other words, a choir farther away from the audience is harder to hear, and therefore should play louder. Given the size of the room we're playing in, the difference can be huge.
Choirs near the back of the room, incidentally, have another disadvantage. In handbell ringing, as in all ensemble music, it is very important to stay synchronized with the other players. In massed ringing, this is even more the case, because not only do you have to stay synchronized with your own choir, but with many other choirs as well. This is why there is a conductor: He or she indicates key points in the music with his or her baton, and if people watch him or her, this allows them to ensure that they are at the same point in the music as everyone else. Music is divided into measures, which are divided into beats; a measure is typically a few seconds, and there are usually three or four beats per measure, though there can be more or sometimes fewer. The beats are what the conductor indicates, so as long as you know what measure you are in you could synchronize yourself about once every two seconds. (Not knowing what measure you are in is called "being lost" and is a bad idea.) The problem, of course, is that choirs at the back have to look over the heads of those in front to see the conductor.
Speaking of conductors, the Japanese girls' choir immediately behind us apparently usually plays without one. Every day, a few choirs give performances to the others by themselves. The choir in question did not have a conductor, but instead relied on each other. At any given point one ringer would probably be playing a repeating pattern for a few measures; the other ringers would look at that ringer and use her notes to stay synchronized. They can do this because they have their music memorized. It's incredibly impressive.
About equally impressive was the solo ringer who played on Tuesday. English handbells only ring if played in a certain direction; playing one sideways or backwards produces no sound. This is used in various ringing techniques, such as "four-in-hand" or the "Shelly grip", which allows one to hold two bells in one hand. The common techniques are to place both bells in different directions, or to place them so that one may be rung with the other rotating instead of moving. Getting four bells in two hands can be difficult, and doing it at high speeds is fairly advanced. This man had four bells in each hand, and the song he performed was not exactly slow. His performance was impressive. Actually, there are just a lot of impressive people here. It's pretty awesome.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Jessica and Allison
Of course the day I write again, nothing One Direction related happened. Anyways, the day started with Allison and I not getting our first wake up call at 6:50. After receiving our back-up one from the front desk, it took us only 5 minutes to turn on the TV and get dressed while half asleep. We were exhausted from the day before and went to sleep late so we obviously wanted to stay in bed longer. Let me take a moment to tell you how AMAZING our hotel room is. We have a handicapped room just like the first hotel. So it's bigger than everyone else's and the bathroom can fit a full grown elephant. We went downstairs to breakfast. The food was amazing, like always. We had croissants, which we eat about 2 or 3 every morning- that's how good they are. We also had muffins,fruit and milk. While we ate we watched the Olympics. I think I can say for everyone, it's not fun watching them, when all you hear about is GB and pretty much nothing about America. We walked about 50 feet to the arena. When we got there we went right to our seats and waited. We sat for five minutes then played for ten minutes to practice our song for the solo concert later that day. There was a worship service which felt long due to all the translations. Then we played massed rehearsals for an hour which was followed by a 20 minute break. We spent 1.70£ on a chocolate pastry. We then went one floor up to our first workshop. We were a bit late so the 5 of us got split up between the tables. We had go make greeting cards. I(Jessica) sat with a lady from Florida, a mother and her daughter with 2 friends from a choir from Pennsylvania and a very nice Japanese lady that used to go to Emanuel and play bells for 5 years, 20 years ago! While Allison sat next to folks from SanFran and a Japanese violinist in college. We made greeting cards in the shape of bells. It was quite hard at first, and it's not going to be easier to explain. But it was so fun getting to know other people. After that our second workshop was Line Dancing. We learned 3 dances and it was so fun to dance with all our friends. It was also great because when we didn't get it, neither did any of us, so we all goofed around but after doing it over and over we finally got it- sort of. After that it was lunch, nothing special happened. The food was nothing special either. And guess what, more bells after that. Then a break- then more bells. But dinner was fun. We invited two girls from Hong Kong to sit with us. We had a long conversation, and One Direction(the best British-Irish boy band ever) did come into play, but didn't stay long because no one wanted to hear me talk more about them(yes I've been talking about them that much)and the girls didn't know about them. After exchanging emails and stories we left to play bells one last time for the night. Before heading back the hotel, we watched a concert from a choir from Japan who was absolutely flawless. They played lots of songs including songs from Sound Of Music and Sister Act 2. We then went back to our room, exhausted from the day we had. Just to let you know the TV commercials here are very weird. So are the shows. Its 12, so bed time! bye!
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
As we prepared for our solo today, the Hakuoh University Choir (known by us as the choir with the pink dresses), were rehearsing for their concert this evening. Our choir, I have to say there were a few that literally had their jaws on the floor. But again I had to remind them that if we had as much rehearsal time as they did that we would have more of a chance to sound as close to good as they are. It is great for our choir to hear how bells can be played so beautifully, percisely and musically. We look forward to their concert this evening. It raises the bar for us.
Our solo went well, though I was playing so don't have the perspective as if I were in the audience. It was a privelage to ring for Eileen as this, I think, plans to be her last International Symposium. In 2000 in Birmingham, I rang at RoseMarie's last Symposium directing the Emanuel Ringers.
The excitement is all ready building from some of my ringers about Korea. I have picked up the information about it - I think I have to start planning now!
From Eiko Cornelius
Combined Emanuel and Katonah Ringers play "Jerusalem" by Eileen Laurence at the 15th International Handbell Symposium in Liverpool, England