I want to start off this entry by saying thank you to everyone who made this trip possible. From the the parents and family members that always supported us to Eiko and Kyoko for even making this possible, thank you for your time and effort. For me this trip was a dream come true and will be a life experience like none other.
The symposiums are always a lot of hard work and practicing, and this one no different. Some days we would leave the hotel at 8:30am and not get back until 9:30pm. And although those days were exhausting it all paid off in the final concert. We played 8 songs, from all of the international handbell delegates. Some songs were very difficult to get and not having a consistent conductor made learning the songs a little harder. As an ensemble we were able to help each other out to perfect each song, or at least try to.
During the concert we had the honor of listening the some of the indigenous peoples music which was a great contrast to the modernistic music we were preforming. The concert started off with the great barrier reef, which outlined the rise fall and future of the reef and ended with a great composition of music from Les Miserables the musical. The pieces were all hand selected by the handbell guild of each representing country and held special meaning to there culture and way life. The meaning behind some of these songs are touching and others are meant to highlight the bright fun nature of there culture like Singapore’s song.
Over all the concert went off without a hitch and even had some surprising moments (the ending of Les mis and a bass mallet unraveling mid song). I am so blessed to have experienced such a great last concert. I will miss playing bells so much. And will never forget the memories I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned and will carry them with me forever.
Today we went on a river boat ride. On the boat ride we saw four grownup and three very cute baby crocodiles. Also, we saw some herons and egrets in a tree. The egrets were completely white with an orange beak. Unlike the zoo crocodiles we saw, the crocodiles were in their natural habitat. The duration of the river boat ride was about an hour. After the river boat ride we went to go eat some very unusual fruit. My two favorite fruits that we tasted was the sour mango, and passion fruit. There was a type of fruit that was a white jelly on the outside and a black seed on the inside.
After that, we went to Mossman Gorge. We went on a hike in the rain forest. We got to see a very rare lizard called Boyd’s forest dragon, which is indigenous to the area. We walked on a lookout and saw part of the gorge and water flowing over big rocks. Then we continued to a suspension bridge and there was a lookout to see a rock cairns which is a stack of rocks balanced on top of each other. Then we walked back down to a calmer part of the gorge and took a short swim in the mineral filled, freezing water. Our tour guide Carlos went to the edge of the boundary then came back to the shore swam and climbed on rocks. We swam with fish. We had a great time in Mosson Gorge where the trees and plants are 165 million years old.
On the way back to the convention center we passed a wild wombat before we came to a cliff. There we stopped the bus to take pictures of the sea. When we got to the convention center we had dinner.
Today we had our first workshops. At the workshops we choose different activities that may or may not be related to handbells. It can be learning about a different culture or about learning different handbell techniques. I chose workshop called Chinese knot ornaments.
However today was a much more important day to us. Today was the day of our solo piece.
After morning practices we practiced our solo piece. We squeezed in any practice time we could find.
Before the concert we were all nervous since the really good japanese choir as well as the Hong Kong choir was playing the same day as us. (And when I say good I mean good to the point where they practice 9 hours a week).
But I knew we would rock it.
We spent hours practicing and worked hard to get this piece to where it is now. We practiced it to the best of our abilities and we played at our best. It wasn’t about which choir was the best. What matters is how much we put into the music. After playing our solo piece, I think it was the best that we have ever played.
Since I am a senior, today was the last day I would probably ever play a solo piece at a international symposium. I am so grateful for the handbell community. It shows a whole new world where there is no cultural or language barrier. We communicate through music and the emotion we portray through music. The friends that I have made through handbells are something that I will never find anywhere else in the entire world. I only see them once a week for two hours yet I’ve created some of my most closest friends that I truly care about. I will always cherish my time playing handbells and the friends that I have made.
Today was an early day as we wanted time to practice our solo piece! We all boarded the bus for 7:45 and we were able to iron out wrinkles in our song. Then it was time for massed ringing. Each of the conductors had 25 minutes to conduct their pieces, and we were all able to get through all 9 before lunch.
After we had eaten lunch, it was time to go to the rainforestation, to experience the aboriginal culture. We arrived at about 3pm after a winding bus ride took us up a steep incline. The first thing we saw was a dance show showcasing multiple dances used by the aboriginals in different situations, like a greeting or in war. After that, we split up to learn how to throw a boomerang, throw spears, and use a didgeridoo. Once we finished up, we went into an animal inclosure with dingos, wallabies, and crocodiles, until it was time for dinner. After we had eaten dinner, which was delicious, it was time to hit the dance floor, as all of the kids went to dance with a live band! This went on until about 8:30 which was when we went on the bus ride back down to the hotel!
We had our first day of the Symposium. We got there at 7:50 AM and left at 9:00 PM. Our first director was Timothy Sherlock from Australia. Each director had 35 minutes of rehearsal time. Out other directors for the morning were Kevin Ko from Hong Kong, and Pamela Grove from USA. Even Toshikazu Yoshida from the Kinjo Gakuin choir directed one piece! It’s was really cool to see his directing technique. After a long morning rehearsal we had lunch.
After lunch we rehearsed with Tim Willetts, Mi Hyun Kim, Camille Ream, Cai Ximin, Carmel Daveson. Its was really cool to see the different ways the conductors worked with us. The different choirs combined together created an interesting sound. After rehearsal we watched individual choirs perform their solo pieces. It was really special seeing the other groups perform because they all had different styles and interpretations of the music. Overall it was a unique and enjoyable experience.
With a 9;30 start, today we got a lot more sleep than yesterday’s early morning. Excited for the gondola skywire ride. after gathering in the lobby, our group split up so we could fit into the busses that took us to the base of the mountain. With a short wait in line we began on our journey through the sky! Our first stop along the way brought us to a rainforest boardwalk on the side of a huge cliff, with a tremendous view. After getting back into our gondolas we were then carried over to our second stop overlooking a huge waterfall. It was an amazing experience. Our final destination was the village of Kuranda, with tons of cafes and small stores to look around. After spending a lovely afternoon there we got onto a vintage style train for our return trip. THe following hour and a half ride exhibited beautiful views of several waterfalls and down onto a cool village. When we finally arrived back in Cairns we trekked back to the hotel for a couple hours of break before the opening ceremonies of the symposium.
The Opening Ceremony began with the procession of participating countries with handbell organizations. Mrs. Shin, chairperson of the International Handbell Symposium, gave her commencement speech. Then following that, The Austral-Asia Handbell organization debuted a piece written by a New Zealand Composer for the Symposium. We then returned to the Hotel to rest up for the First day of ringing.