In response to: Daily Prompt: Pluck
Pluck. Mart. Mallet. Shake. Ring Touch.
These words had little or no real meaning to me in connection with each other up until this past year. But I now have a whole new understanding and appreciation for each of these words individually as well as collectively, because this year I began learning how to ring handbells. I just got home from a 4-day long bell festival.
It was hard.
It was exhausting.
It was overwhelming.
It was awesome.
Music, dance, and creativity have always been a part of my life. Whether performing or coaching, I have always had a need for musical creativity in my life. Last year, I realized that I was missing that musical outlet. It had been quite a few years since I had that type of musical outlet, so I was searching for something. I don’t sing, (which is best for everyone). But a good friend of mine performs with an amazing community handbell choir and we have a handbell choir at my church. So I was inspired to give it a try.
Handbell ringing has been a lot of fun. I have enjoyed learning how to play a new instrument, trying to work out the rhythms, learning the notes and the various techniques, as well as getting to know the people in our handbell choir. I wasn’t really sure I could handle festival, (actually I was pretty sure I couldn’t handle it, I have only been playing for nine months), but the other members of our choir assured me that I should give it a try. And I’m so glad I did.
For four days at festival, I learned to pluck, mart, mallet, shake, ring touch and so much more. I learned how to do one technique with one bell in one hand, and a different technique with another bell in the other hand. I learned to read music in 7/8 time, cut time, common time, 3/4 time and how to switch back and forth between them, all within the same piece of music. I learned how to follow different directors (although I do prefer my own director best). I watched individuals, small groups, large choirs, and a massed ringing of 400 people make beautiful music ringing handbells.
I learned that it didn’t matter if I can sight read perfectly (I can’t) or if I turn the page four measures too early (yup, I did that) or if I can’t master a piece in 3 hours and 45 minutes (nope, can’t do that) but that when we all play together and do our best, we make some incredible music.
Beyond the music, I learned more about the people I went to festival with. I learned about their life journeys, both past and present. They shared a little more with me about the challenges they have faced and continue to face, as well as those things that bring them great joy. I also learned that the journey of life is so much more fun when you have people to travel it with you.
I tend to be a perfectionist in all that I do. And I’m kind of hard on myself (ok, really hard on myself). But another thing that handbell ringing has taught me is that while it’s important for me to learn how to play my part well, handbell ringing is a team sport. My notes don’t sound as good in isolation as it does when they is played along with everyone else’s notes, and that when we play all together, we can make some beautiful and touching music.
Most importantly over the four days of festival, I shared time and space with some really great people. People I can laugh with about the flamingos, commiserate with about the long treks across campus – walking backwards down a hill, and giggle with about middle school humor and innuendo. People who have walked the incredible journeys of their lives, and have shared at least a part of that journey with me. People I call my friends.
Ringing handbells is hard work, but it’s so much fun. Being a perfectionist, I struggle with the fact that I am learning a new instrument and there are a lot of things I don’t know how to do … yet. But at the end of the day, it isn’t about perfection, but rather it’s about putting forth my best effort and having people there for me when I mess up to help me to find my way, both in the music, and in life.It’s about being blessed enough to have people in my life who are willing to offer that help. It’s about opening myself up to accept that help. And it’s about walking this journey of life with some cool people and maybe even making making joyful music along the way!