On a Bit of Difficulty

When I get a new piece of handbell music, I check two things: the name of the composer/arranger and the difficulty level

Maintained by the Handbell Musicians of America, the difficulty level is a numbering system from 1 (easiest) to 6 (hardest). (Standards here) The designation may include a plus or minus to further clarify. The level has many functions, one being help directors select appropriate songs for their choir relative to the skills and techniques the piece requires. Our choir normally plays in the 2+ to 4 range, but we’ve played level 5 once or twice.

Capriccio (by Kevin McChesney) is an original composition for handbells – and a level 5. It’s fast and involves irregular rhythms, changing tempos, a variety of techniques, and more. I recently saw the Purdue Bells (from Purdue University) in concert. This choir was large (16 members) – but for Capriccio, it was done by 4 … that’s F-O-U-R players.

The murmur at the very beginning is because they just announced the name of the piece they were playing. Given the audience was hundreds of handbell players, many know the difficulty for a choir of 12-14 players – let alone for 4 people – and that also explains the final reaction. Enjoy these 4 people playing over 30 bells!

On Peace

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind. (Mahatma Gandhi, Indian)

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. (Nelson Mandela, South African)

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. (John F. Kennedy, American)

A peace is of the nature of a conquest; for then both parties nobly are subdued, and neither party loser. (William Shakespeare, British)

We make war that we may live in peace. (Aristotle, Greek)

If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. (Desmond Tutu, South African)

The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned. (Dag Hammarskjold, Swede)

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, American)

To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right. (Confucius, Chinese)
Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. (Albert Einstein, German American)

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood. (Martin Luther King, Jr., American)

Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war. (Winston Churchill, British)

Peace is a state of quiet and tranquility. Peace is a harmony between people. Peace is mutual concordance between governments.

Some of us see humans as one, thus see everlasting peace as desirable quest, which is much more than a point in time, but a desirable end point. But history has countless reminders of tranquility followed by violence, and the cycle repeats … peace follows war, thus leading to another war.

Serenity to turmoil, quiet to loud, calm to tumult are only a few of the terms describing human events. Arnold Sherman wrote Song of Peace for handbells memorializing another event – the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995. As you listen, the harsh discord of violence is evident – as is the calmness of peace. Coincidentally, I finalized this post while watching the moving dedication of the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Peace to you.

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.