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