On Compassion

Compassion: From a Latin meaning “to suffer together”

Compassion: A sympathetic consciousness

Compassion: A feeling of wanting to help someone in need

Compassion: Mercy, tenderness, heart, clemency, sympathy, commiseration, feeling, empathy, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, leniency, kindness, charity, pity, humanitarianism

Compassion: A worthy characteristic regardless of religious or nonreligious preferences

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. (Dalai Lama)

The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others. (Albert Schweitzer)

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. (Albert Einstein)

Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men. (Confucius)

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. (Nelson Mandela)

Compassion: An original composition for handbells by Jason Krug, performed by our handbell choir (Bells of Peace)

On Premiering a Fantasia

When a new handbell piece appears in my folder, I examine certain things for my own sake.

Image from Hope Publishing

Image from Hope Publishing

Who is the composer/arranger? Cool … it’s Kevin McChesney, he’s one of the best!

What’s the difficulty level? Hmmmm … Why isn’t this piece rated?

So, what publisher forgot the rating? Huh? There isn’t one!

Maybe it’s on the page? How long is this thing? What!!! This has twice as many pages as anything else we’ve ever played!

Is there a dedication? OMG! Someone commissioned this for our church and the approaching 50th anniversary celebration.

ForAllTheSaintsGlass

Stained glass at All Saints Episcopal Church (Jensen Beach, FL) from Wikipedia

Starting in late August, our choir worked hard to prepare Fantasia on “For All the Saints”, a lively take for handbells on the classic hymn For All the Saints (music by Ralph Vaughn Williams and lyrics by William How) … (and my part was quite challenging).

We would premier the piece at the 50th Anniversary celebration dinner of our congregation, as well as playing it Sunday morning. Fittingly, and seemingly coincidentally, it was also All Saints Sunday.

As time drew closer, I carried memories of this good friend who would have loved this piece, but was murdered … and this good friend and bell ringer who cancer quickly vanquished from us … and to other friends who I’ve met at church that we no longer see for one reason or another … and to members of my family. To top it off, a past pastor returned and delivered a wonderful sermon that reminded everyone that each of us as saints and sinners.

At the dinner, one of our handbell choir members introduced the piece. Her words were so fitting that when she read it at rehearsal earlier in the week, my eyes got a little watery – and the portion below is good for this post.

The text of the first verse is especially appropriate for any occasion in which we stop to reflect on a community of faith:

“For all the saints // who from their labors rest // who thee by faith // before the world confessed // thy name O Jesus // be forever blest. // Alleluia, Alleluia!”

At one point, you’ll be able to hear those Alleluias passed among several bells and intermixed with the melody.

We couldn’t imagine a more fitting tribute on this All Saints weekend, when we honor the saints who are in this room and the saints who have made 50 years of ministry and fellowship at Prince of Peace possible.

In time, publishers will make this piece available for others to play, but I can proudly say that I was in the first choir to play it and the dedication line indicates our church.

While you’re watching, observe many ringing techniques throughout the choir.  Enjoy the blog premier of Fantasia on “For All the Saints”.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 181

On Politics
The Republican Party admits to having an image problem – (a Sherlock Award for the statement) – but are their words similar to whitewash? Here’s one a good read for this thought.

The attack of the US Embassy in Benghazi is unquestionably a political football. I heard this quote this week (paraphrased): “If we knew there would be a second attack, we would have prepared to it.” (Yep – another Sherlock Award)

Cheers to The Onion for discovering the real schedule of the recent NRA convention.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion

  • EPA warns Americans not to breathe
  • No one in limo going to prom with the one they wanted
  • Malicious focus group convinces marketers Cinnamon Mountain Dew is the next big thing
  • Woman places poison in Starbucks orange juice
  • Rescue chip sent in to save broken Tostito submerged in 7-layer dip
  • Snooze button time traveler sets coordinates for 5 minutes in the future

Interesting Reads
Pope Francis update
Absoluteness of the Bill of Rights
For those who know Bazooka Joe
Speaking ill, with skill: a book review
The criminal mind and the anatomy of violence

On Potpourri
28_CompHappy Mother’s Day to all the moms! Mine passed away in 1987, and I am now older than she was then.

Earlier this week I had this post about Amber (the LD student), Bette (the LD teacher), and me (the science teacher). I heard from Bette, and she appreciated the post.

Last Saturday was an anniversary that isn’t fun to remember – May 4, 1970 – the shootings at Kent State University. Here’s a historical perspective of that day from Kent, and a classic song marking the occasion.

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Cheers to the following bloggers (so far) for meeting the A Frank Angle A-to-Z Challenge: Fasab, Red, and Tom - so, give them a visit.

My wife was off Thursday, so we saw Iron Man 3. Whew …. only 10 people in the theater for this weekday matinée. I imagine it will be a tad more crowded this weekend. Oh yes – it’s a fun movie. By the way, stick around through the lengthy credits. Well, try counting the number of names listed.

Sorry – no Saturday Morning Cartoon feature this weekend.

You may recall that last weekend our handbell choir did our first-ever concert. It was fun and a success for a volunteer group. A friend of our told me that she that rings bells, but we play them. I’ll send you into the weekend with us doing the first song on the program. Have a good weekend! In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On One Instrument

A piano is one instrument with 88 keys (52 white, 36 black). Typically, one PianoKeysperson reads many notes on piano music to create rhythmic patterns aimed to please the audience. I’m not a piano player, but I admire the pianist’s skills not only with their hands, but their ability to read and play so many notes on a page. Yet, a piano is one instrument played by one person.

MusicalNotesFrequencyBands and orchestras are large groups of different instruments working together as a unit to create a complex musical sound. However, just like the piano, each member is responsible for one instrument – and their music typically displays the notes for one instrument. Therefore, it is the conductor’s responsibility to bring the instrumentation of the ensemble together to please the audience.

Although they also produce music for an audience, handbells are different because they are one instrument that multiple people play together. I imagine you never thought of a handbell choir being one instrument, but it is – Therefore, this post aims to explain this single instrument with its numerous freestanding pieces.

For starters, the number of bells in a choir varies depending on the number of Handbellsmembers and their skills. One handbell is the equivalent to one key on the piano. In our choir, that’s about 60 bells for 13-14 people – but every song doesn’t require every bell. (Note: If we had the players and money, we could add about 36 more bells.) Occasionally, music also requires some players to use handchimes, which I will work in later.

For those thinking that piano music looks busy, handbell music is more so because composers place all the notes for the entire choir together. Yep – that means the player must have the ability to locate their notes among the jungle. (I’m responsible for 2-4 notes/bells).

Besides the all the notes and standard information as key, tempo, and dynamics, handbell music has additional marking for the techniques that create a variety of sounds. Terms include marts, ring touch, let vibrate, mallets, plucks, echoes, damp, mart lifts, swings, gyros, shakes, mallet rolls, and more. (Yep, symbols for each technique.) Players can also adjust the hardness of the clamper inside the bell. (The soft setting sound is mellow, while the hard setting sound is bright; and, there is an in-between setting.

See this short (less than 2 minutes) video demonstrating some techniques.


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Just like other musical ensembles, the conductor has the responsibility of bringing it all together – but with handbells, the conductor orchestrates multiple people playing one instrument – quite the challenge! Now watch this video to see everything come together in a short, spurt of madness from Ring of Fire! (Watch for the different techniques.)


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Earlier, I mentioned handchimes. Like handbells, its one handchime per note – but they produce a different sound. Besides handchimes, handbell choirs may incorporate other instruments. We have played with piano, organ, trumpet, violin, flute, drums, contrabass bars, other percussion, and singers.

In closing, I hope this has helped you understand what is involved, so now enjoy the Raleigh Ringers with handbells, handchimes, cello, flute, and mallet chimes – and notice all the bells behind them that are not used in this piece. Ah yes, who would have imagined that the complexity of one instrument.

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Note: Special thanks to Madam Weebles for the thought triggering this post. 

For a Friend

A year ago, the hearts of many were heavy as we received word of the passing of an outstanding lady that my wife and I were lucky to know and call friend.

We last saw her at handbell practice in early November after returning from a week-long Caribbean cruise. She was fighting chest congestion for a month, thus at the end of rehearsal, my wife and another ringer convinced her to escalate her troubles. Later that week she went to the hospital, received X-rays, was admitted, and never returned home.

Being gracious, funny, and a good one to kid, those that knew her, loved her. No matter what she did, she always gave it her best, and with the ability to laugh at herself … and, much too young to leave the living.

We, and the family, thought she would be home for Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter, but the lung cancer was too aggressive and too advanced. I can’t recall ever crying for so many consecutive days – not for any friends or my grandparents, aunts, uncles, or parents. It was very hard for us in this house, and it also impacted our entire holiday season.

Nonetheless, we grabbed our bootstraps, and focused on her husband because that is something we could do here and now. I’m proud of him as he’s done well, and I’m happy with the little part that I’ve played.

Today is the first anniversary of her passing – thus, why I couldn’t do a cartoon post. She wouldn’t be much for the today’s hub-bub, thus would be fussy with me to post as normal – but that’s ok, she’s not here to stop me … besides, I can use this to  kid her again!

I’ve thought a lot of her this week, and even write this with tears – but it’s something I had to do for a good lady.

A few days after her funeral, I posted this tribute to her, as I share a constant reminder I have of her.  Besides, I know I’m a better person today because of her role of a portion of my life – but my wife and I still miss her.

Her funeral was difficult for the entire handbell choir as she was one of us, besides, her husband asked us to play. I still recall the difficulty of that rehearsal for the entire choir, but also his strength and pride through his smile as we concluded at the funeral.

Today is a good time to share this beautiful version of Beside Still Waters we played with heavy hearts for our friend and handbell colleague.

Meanwhile, “Hey up there – how are the butterflies?” (actually, an inside joke for her that I couldn’t resist)