On Cymbals and Drums

In a few weeks, our handbell choir will play the piece below: Praise Him with Cymbals and Drums, as part of a small local festival. In handbell world, this is a difficult piece (Level 5 on a rating system from 1 to 6+). The timing and rhythms are funky, plus it requires of variety of techniques. Unquestionably, this is the most difficult music we’ve played, and were are getting it – well … much of the time …. which means we have to hit it on performance day!

The choir in this video, the Golden Bells of Atlanta, is very good. In our version, we will be adding percussion, which will be an interesting twist. On a special note, during the last 30 seconds watch the two bass players on the right because they are awesome.

As for me, my part is the same as the guy behind “Golden” in their banner, which also plays the mallets in the background.Β This fun piece will demonstrate that handbell music is much more than traditional hymns. Enjoy!

59 thoughts on “On Cymbals and Drums

  1. A handbell choir playing a piece about cymbals and drums? Fascinating – I’d love to see what they’d use for a tribute to handbells! πŸ˜€
    Don’t worry, the practice is ALWAYS the worst part. By the time you get to performance night, you’re so hyped up, it all becomes a blur!
    Or is that just my screwed-up mental wiring? πŸ˜‰

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    • John,
      And most recordings of this I’ve heard/seen do the piece without cymbals and drums. However, we are adding something, but I don’t know what yet because the first rehearsal with percussion is next week. But yes, a cymbals and drums tribute to handbells would be interesting. http://instantrimshot.com/ … One thing about live performance is that you only get one shot, so we’ll see …. and hopefully not a train wreck! Thanks for commenting.

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    • Rich,
      I will mention the recording the various selections at our upcoming bell festival to the powers at be. But I can guarantee that it won’t be better than the above group from Atlanta! Thanks for visiting.

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  2. I haven’t heard and seen before such an amazing musicians like them… Handbell is very new for me, fascinated me… The music is so nice and the players are amazing… Especially as you mentioned during the last part these two guys unbelievable… What a great talent. Thank you dear Frank, this was so beautiful, with my love, nia

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    • Nia,
      Handbells are popular in America and in parts of Asia. On the other hand, a few years ago a German handbell choir played at our church and I was surprised when they said there were only 20 handbell choirs in all of Germany! Just so you know, different techniques create the different types of sounds. For instance in this piece, the middle to lower bells are striking the bell against the table. Plus, my part uses a soft mallet to play them like a drum. Nonetheless, I’m glad you liked them and thanks for visiting.

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  3. This should be my ignorance, but to be honest I haven’t seen… we have these kind of musical instruments too in our music. But just for handbells… On the other hand my husband is also a musician he play African drum, “djembe”… He played with his band at the stage for several concert but they were all drums and bells, etc. and almost 100 players at the stage… you can image… So, this is surprise for me how I haven’t met with these handbells before… I loved it so much, beautiful sounds… so melodical…You are welcome and Thank you once again, dear Frank, with my love, nia

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    • Nia,
      100 drummers and bells? Wow!!! I know that there are many types of African drums and their music has many variations. I find it interesting how different drummers follow the call of the leader.

      Although this handbell piece is fast, some of the slower songs bring the beauty of calmness. We have also been accompanied by flutes, trumpets, violin, organ, and vocals (both solo and choir).

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      • I posted some of their concerts but not on this blog, maybe I should carry some of them here too. Actually at the beginning it was very hard to find a stage for all these musicians but now we have so nice concert saloons for them… Thank you, Love, nia

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    • Pearl,
      Welcome first-time commenter! Like anything else, some aren’t very good, others ok, some are good, a few great, and everyone else is someone on the continuum … but the upper echelon ones are really fun to watch and hear. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

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  4. I enjoyed watching both videos! I think playing the handbells is a wonderful expression of Joy. I hope it all comes together and that everyone has fun. :+) I know it’s a lot of hard work and persision.

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    • Starla,
      Knowing that you enjoy handbells, I knew you would enjoy this one. This is one is fun to play, but tricky, and if one gets out of rhythm – Yikes! Interestingly, especially at the beginning, this piece changes time every other meaure … that is starting with 7/8 then 4/4 then 7/8, then 4/4 … bizarre … That’s too hectic, so I play my part by feel because counting would drive me crazy! Thanks for stopping by.

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  5. I agree about getting vido taped I was thinking that I wished I had some video tape to look as from my past when I was involved with handbells. It was before video cameras were so popular. Oh well I still have the sweet memories.

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    • Izaak,
      Sound and choreography are both good terms for handbell choirs … there is a show and appearance aspect … not necessarily fancy, but graceful, large, and in unison. Thanks for commenting.

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  6. How truly lovely! I am sure the piece you will be playing requires a lot of practice and your skills must be very strong! In a world tempting us to do so many things which are ultimately meaningless, the time and attention to this musical artform is very special! Debra

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    • Debra,
      Our skills are not to the level as the choir in the video, but from what I’ve seen, we are a good church choir. No matter the endeavor in life, challenges are good. When we first started practicing, I was thinking “no way” … but our director believes in us and is getting us ready. Thanks for commenting.

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  7. Frank: Thanks for encouraging me to check this video out. It was delightful, especially sense I’m banging my head against the computer keyboard trying to come up with a new story this week. I needed this break into joy. The two guys on the end “stealing” each others bells were awesome to watch. I can imagine this piece with percussion–it can only be enhanced with the drums. I hope you post your group playing this piece.

    Now back to the drawing board. . . ET

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    • E-Tom,
      I had to tip you off on this post because I knew you would like it! Those two bass-bell players were awesome … and I posted their practice video in a comment to Mags – fun to watch!!! Adding the percussion will be interesting, especially since we haven’t practiced that aspect yet. Part of handbell playing involves listening to others – throw in a different sound – oops …. it’s different – and sometimes it’s easier to adjust to than others … so we will find out at the next rehearsal. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

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    • Otto,
      I happen to know this! πŸ™‚ The origin of handbells is linked to “change ringing” – rhythmic patterns of a series of bells in large cathedrals. Thus, handbells were created to make it easier for the change ringers to practice – although pulling a large bell from a long rope is a story in itself. I hope that makes sense. Oh well … I tried. Thanks for the best wishes and for commenting.

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        • Otto,
          I did a bit more research, which confirmed my previous answer. It seems the first tuned, bronze bell was made in the late 17th-early 18th century in England, whose church bells were being rung differently than the rest of Europe (change ringing).

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      • Doesn’t the development of handbells include a side trip through the infamous “town crier” position, the handbells originally used as an easy-to-handle form of public attention-gathering? In other words, the big church bells were used to gather the town, but proved less-than-easy to handle by smaller congregations, and thus the bells shrunk to hand level?
        Or are the little voices in me lying again? Can’t trust those buggers from down by the left kidney – fibbers all! πŸ˜‰

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        • John,
          Interestingly, town criers seem to have a longer history than tuned handbells. Some of the initial attention-getting methods were sounding horns, bugles, drums, and anything that clangs – including bells that were not tuned. So, those little voices in your head had some merit. πŸ˜‰

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    • Les,
      This handbell group is pretty good. Probably a group that players go through auditions to get it (as opposed to a church group of volunteers). I do know that there is a part written for 3 percussionists. Percussion is our church’s music director second instrument, so he is rearranging the 3 parts into one. He practiced with us for the first time last night. For us, it took some getting used to, but it should work. Well, since we are playing soon – it better work! Glad you liked it and thanks for commenting.

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    • John,
      Ours is a volunteer group that practices 75 minutes per week fall though spring. With that in mind, this piece was quite the accomplishment for us (we successfully played it yesterday) – and we played it at a quick pace. On the other hand, being volunteers, I don’t think we make it look effortless because that is what the highly-skilled groups do. We have a good mix of decent ringers and support ringers that make it work. Thanks for commenting.

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  8. Frank, I watched this video when you posted it but didn’t comment as it was posted the week I had to attend 5 different student composer recitals. (Not many words left over that week!) I listened again and think it is a fantastic piece – hooray for your group for taking it on! I love percussion music anyway (played a variety of drums years ago) and love the intricacies of this type of piece. Let us know how it turns out for your group!

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    • Lynn,
      Good to hear your thoughts on this. In my music history, I’ve never played a time signature like this one. Fortunately, I learned to play it by feel with counting in key spots, otherwise counting differently every other measure who have driven me crazy! Then throw in the various techniques – no wonder it is a difficult piece.

      Interestingly, we played it very well at our small festival this past Saturday! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

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