2019 National Seminar Experiences

Area 10 at National Seminar

Several members of Area 10 attended the 2019 National Seminar held July 16-20 in St. Louis, MO.  Here’s what they had to say…

My experiences at National Seminar—Diane Barnes (Events Chair)

St. Louis did not disappoint—once again National Seminar served up inspiring concerts from community groups from around the country and the Distinctly Teen and All Star Choirs.  I took classes from some of the top clinicians in their field—brushing up on my rhythm skills and learning some percussionists tricks with Cathy Moklebust, learning effective teaching techniques from Bob Avant, looking at ringing musically from a couple of new perspectives and trying to develop my limb independence with Michele Sharik in “A Hand Clappin’, Foot Stompin’, Funky Good Time”.  I am now ready to get back in rehearsals with my choirs inspired to bring then to new heights in their ringing.

My experiences at National Seminar— Joann Wallenburn (Communications Chair)

St. Louis did not disappoint!  As this was my first seminar, I’d like to describe the experience to you through the eyes of a newbie.  If you’ve never been, you should consider it.  Because this was my first time, I tried to experience a broad spectrum of the classes that were offered.  I have to confess that because there was such a big catalog of classes, I jumped to conclusions about the content based on the title.  Sometimes my leaps were spot on.  Other times – not.  Just like Diane Barnes, I am excited to get back to choir practices and put what I learned to use.

Day 1, Wednesday July 17th

The day’s activities began at 7:30 am with a breakfast held for First-Time Attendees.  A lot of attention was given to ensuring that First-Time Attendees were able to take advantage of the full experience.  We were each assigned a sponsor who was available to help with any questions we had and who reached out to us before the event.

At 9:00 am I had my first class, “Bell Trees: In the Beginning”.  The instructor was Barbara Brocker – also Area 10.  Several of the ladies I met in the breakfast were in the class, so I already had familiar faces to interact with.

Class #2 was Metal and Muscle led by KatRyn Howell.  This was one of my errant leaps, but turned out to be a very valuable class regardless.  I thought this class was about how to ring the big bells (metal and muscle).  Instead, it was about how to warm up your muscles for ringing all sizes of bells and how to prevent injury.  Given that I am in the gray-haired category, as are most of my ringers, we will be warming up before practice routinely now.

The first of 8 concerts offered throughout the seminar was held after lunch.  We were treated to the fine music of the Twin Cities Bronze choir.  They played without a conductor, and what really struck me was the interactions of the ringers with each other during each song.  There was a strong measure of visual performance in their ringing.  They really looked like they were having a ton of fun up there!

My afternoon classes were spent with Emily Li with sessions 1 and 2 of Building Skills for the Ensemble.  This was another errant jump (I thought trio, quartet, etc.) but turned out to present ringing exercises that will build skills for the entire choir that I will be incorporating in each practice.

My Day 1 ended with a concert by the Houston Chamber Ringers.  Wow!  I mean, WOW!  The latter part of the concert included Karaoke that brought the national board up front and singing for the audience.  The program ended with the entire audience singing to Bohemian Rhapsody.

Day 2, Thursday July 18th

Day 2 began with another breakfast at 7:30 – this one for Area and National leadership.  In addition to the fine food, we were provided with an update and look forward to upcoming activities and new opportunities within HMA by Jennifer Cauhorn, Executive Director of HMA.  Small world – I sat next to a stranger who turned out to be the Music Minister at the church where my former next door neighbor (in Cary, NC) attends and is heavily involved in the music ministry!  They are, of course, close friends.

Class 1: Four-in-Hand with KatRyn Howell.  How many ways are there to ring 4-i-h?  Answer:  A lot!

Class 2: Change Ringing Made Practical with Sandra Winter.  Whenever I have the opportunity, I take a change ringing class just because it’s a fun puzzle, but I’ve never seen a use for it.  Now I can see how to use change ringing in a variety of settings.  We even had Whitechapel bells to try out.

Lunch Concert: Quadrants  This quartet was awesome!  They were fast, extremely skilled – as in precise, yet musical – in their ringing technique and put on a very visual performance.  A funny aside is that they performed a piece titled Typewriter, which includes a typewriter as a percussion instrument.  None of the younger performers had ever typed on a typewriter!  Rather than learning how, they developed an alternate sound to replace the typewriter in the piece.

Class 3: Bell Trees: Beyond the Basics, again with Barbara Brocker built on the skills learned on Day 1.  I try to introduce all facets of bell ringing to my group.  Bell trees are coming soon…

Class 4: Do It Right & Make it Beautiful with Hyosang Park.  Ms. Park was one of the quartet Quadrants.  She had already demonstrated that she knew her stuff!  In this class we focused on some of the finer nuances of handbell music such as grace notes, quick damp, suspended mallet rolls, controlled damp and how to “bend the pitch”.  Yes, it is what it sounds like and can be done!

Evening Concert: Virginia Bronze:  This concert blended handbell ringing and electronic music for a unique experience.  Area 10 Treasurer, Kylie Johnson, performed as a substitute.  I can’t imagine playing at this level and stepping in as a sub!  Way to go Kylie.

Day 3, Friday July 19th

Classes 1 – 3: Beginning Solo Techniques, Making it Look Easy (Solo Ringing), and Ringing Solos Musically – all with Ron Bellamy.  This series of classes started with the basics of how to arrange the bells on the table and how to decide which hand goes first, to strategies for displacing bells, changing keys by changing the keyboard, and using traveling 4-i-h to musically conquer challenging pieces.  Plus, practice, practice, practice!

Lunch Concert: Timbré  This ensemble is much more than just handbells.  They also incorporate dance, keyboard, other percussion and singing in their performance.

Class 4: Mallet Techniques (Play Like a Percussionist) with Alex Guebert  Alex worked with the class to develop proper technique for holding and striking the mallet, including the 3 S’s learned in the Technique Certification Course: Stance, Seat and Stroke. They apply to malleting a bell as well as ringing a bell.  I really appreciate that he spent one-on-one time with each and every student to observe and help them improve. One of my take-aways is to practice mallet rolls slowly to develop a steady pulse, then work to speed up the pulse to create the mallet roll.  As Ron Bellamy stressed, practice, practice, practice!  You can bet my choir will be practicing, too.

Gala Banquet – I purposefully sat at a table where I didn’t know anyone, and found 2 Area 10 attendees that I didn’t know seated at the same table.

Evening Concert: Rezound! Handbell Ensemble  This ensemble from Kansas City rocked the joint.  Their encore of YMCA (morphed to HM of A) had the entire audience up dancing and singing along.  If you’re in KC and have a chance to attend a concert –  you should go.  I’ve told all my KC relatives about them!

Day 4, Saturday July 20th

Class 1: Got Two Hands, How Many Bells? with Hyosang Park.  While I expected this to be about 4 and 6 in hand techniques, it was more about how to master weaving.  Another errant jump that provided skill building exercises I will use in my choir practices.  (If any of my ringers are reading this, they’re getting a preview of what’s coming!)

Class 2: Coordination Conundrums led by Michèle Sharik.  The vendors on-site were sold out of this piece, which speaks to how useful everyone who took this class thought it was.  I will be ordering it for my choir.

Lunch Concert: All Star Choir and Distinctly Teen choirs The Distinctly Teen Seminar ran parallel to National Seminar.  They worked up several pieces under the direction of Greig Ashurst.  Area 10 member Rachel Hould participated this year.  Following Distinctly Teen, the All-Star Choir performed under the direction of Arnold Sherman and KC Congdon.  Area 10 members on the All-Star Choir were Diane Hould (yep, related to Rachel Hould!) and Kathryn Christine Chojnacki.

Class 3: Ringing the Buckets Doesn’t Take Super Powers with Leslie Lewis  This class truly was about ringing the big bells (below C3).  I don’t ever expect to ring the buckets myself, but as a director, I thought it would be useful to know how to do so safely and musically in case we ever grow big enough to get the buckets.  I actually rang (very carefully!) a “2” bell.  I think it was C2.  It was the bronze, not the aluminum and quite heavy.

Class 4: Taming the Buckets with Leslie Lewis  In this class, we were given music and time to consider how to assign the “buckets” and decide how many ringers were needed.  My partner and I had a Fugue with running 16th notes in the low bass!!!

Closing Concert: Strikepoint & Bells of the Lakes (confession: I left after the last class as we had a long drive ahead of us.)

Thus ended my first National Seminar.  It won’t be my last!